Wah-Wah

"OK"

Wah-Wah Review


The obvious risk with autobiographical films is that audiences just might not in the end be interested in the same sort of story that the filmmaker wants to tell about himself. So it is with Wah-Wah, written and directed by Richard E. Grant, who based it on his own childhood growing up in Swaziland in the years leading up to the end of British rule - Grant might want to focus most on the film's dysfunctional (though fun in its own way) family and its effect on his young stand-in, but viewers may be left wondering what's going on outside that melodrama. It's a big world out there, and Grant only gives us teasing glances at it.

The boy at the center of everything is Ralph Compton, 11 years old in the film's preamble, in which he watches (once literally, from the back seat) as his mother Lauren (Miranda Richardson) screws a married man and then takes off with him. The divorce proves ugly and Ralph is sent off to boarding school, leaving his devastated father Harry (Gabriel Byrne) behind, fending off the occasional advance from local females. The film starts properly three years later with the return home of Ralph, this time played by Nicholas Hoult, sprouted quite a bit from his About a Boy days. Ralph comes back to find Harry just remarried, this time to an American stewardess he's known for six weeks, Ruby (Emily Watson). She's a breath of warm air, waltzing right into this snobbish little colonial backwater and immediately breaks practically every one of their thousand little etiquettes - night and day to the waspish, scathing Lauren. But yet it's not enough to keep Harry from hitting the bottle hard. Harry drinks, Ruby frets, Ralph fumes, and occasionally Lauren returns just to stir things up to an even higher pitch.

The backdrop to all the drama inside the Compton house (a cozy little colonial cottage, if you like that sort of thing) is the fact that it's 1969 and the sun is about to set on this corner of the British Empire. The colonials are about to take down the Union Jack and hand the country back to the Swazis - Princess Margaret is coming to do the honors. The problem being that nobody seems to know what they're going to do after Independence. The other problem being that Grant's script (adapted from parts of his With Nails autobiography) doesn't really address this part of the story in any depth. There's some perfunctory noise made about Independence, and some easy fun is had at the expense of the clueless colonials, who decide to mark the occasion by putting on an amateur performance of Camelot in a Waiting for Guffman-esque subplot. It's hard to tell what the tone is through the parts of the film not dealing with the Compton's dysfunctionality, as it seems to sway somewhere between terribly relevant drama (the Patrick Doyle score is far more serious than the subject matter deserves) and straight farce.

Quite serious script and tone problems aside, the film at least shows Grant to be an excellent director of actors, all of whom deliver wonderfully warm, natural performances (this is ironic, given that as a performer, Grant has tended to shrill caricatures, nothing close to which you'll find here). The usually dour Byrne has a surprisingly light touch here, playing a generally decent man who turns monstrous with drink but returns quickly to his winking, jolly self in the morning. Watson is nothing short of fantastic, wearing her big, broad American accent like a bullhorn, scattering all before her. Together they make for a smart and likeable couple, the kind of parents one can actually see a child suffering through some truly horrendous domestic scenes in order to stay with.

Given how much raw material there is to go on, it's surprising that Wah-Wah doesn't feel meatier than it does. It's a flippant and confused film, striving for dabs of comedy here, some lashes of drama over there, and rumbling to a close with some shameless twanging of the heartstrings. It's a story not quite worthy of those on screen who are telling it.

Reviewed at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Have a whiskey, little man.



Wah-Wah

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 2nd June 2006

Box Office USA: $0.2M

Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Production compaines: Wah Film Productions Ltd., Reeleyes Film, Scion Films, Loma Nasha

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 32

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Harry Compton, as Ruby Compton, as Gwen Traherne, as Ralph Compton - 14 years, as Lauren Compton, as Lady Riva Hardwick, Zac Fox as Ralph Compton - 11 years, as Charles Bingham, as June Broughton, John Matshikiza as Dr. Zim Mzimba, as Vernon, John Carlisle as Sir Giffard Hardwick, Mathokoza Sibiya as Dozen, Sindisiswe Nxumalo as Regina, Michael Richard as Tobias, Caroline Smart as Taj, as John Traherne, as Monica, Sibusiso Mamba as Father Ndlovu, Tony Hatton as Mr. Parker, Clare Marshall as Mrs. Malaga, Kim Borrell as Bunny

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Advertisement
Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.