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Wah-wah (2005)

Wah-Wah. Feature film. (2005, 97 mins) IMDB

...What the wah-wah?...


nother British film loaded with character actors. You've seen them all before even if you can't put a name to them or even remember what movie you saw them in. It's just the way it is.

It's 1969 in Swaziland--way down in the southern end of Africa. It's still controlled by Britain, but by the end of the movie Princess Margaret will have arrived to preside over its independence. Unlike say A DRY WHITE SEASON, this film doesn't focus on blacks. It's about the English living in this foreign country. How they bring their pretensions and funny language (e.g., toodaloo). Wah-wah is a general mimicry in a derogatory of this pretentious language and the class ranks in which it exists.

There is a father (Byrne) who is a respected British gentleman and a drunk. A drunk who can't remember his violent and outrageous behaviour from the night before. In the morning he begs for forgiveness and will mend his ways. Over and over.

He has a beautiful wife who is cheating on him at the start of the film. Leaves him and her son shortly thereafter and tries to return when her lovers departs to Peru.

Then there is the son. Abandoned by his mother, ignored by his father. Shipped off to boarding school. Even though he spends a great deal of time on screen and has lots of lines, we don't really get to know him. He seems to be coping and responding to what is happening around him. The best we see is he makes a stage and puppets and acts them out. And later has a role in an amateur production of CAMELOT. Maybe they want us to think he's gay, but there's a girl he kisses and yet there's no plot between the two. He spots her one day, than another, and finally they kiss during the open night performance. No drama there.

Neither father or son cope well with the loss of mum. It seems worse on the father, because it's after the break-up that we see him as a drunk. The worst sort. But I ask you, do we really need to see this? It's been done, and done. What is the point? It's ugly. It's not something I'm interested in watching.

The exact same father was shown in "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" as played by Woody Harrelson. I suppose this aspect of the film was a big turn off for me. I know I started to tune out.

Further. What's new and interesting about a bunch of snobs fucking around with other people's husbands or wives all the while saying wah-wah? Nothing new there.

While the movie is set in Swaziland. It doesn't become part of the story to the extent we feel we're there. There are the moments at the end, but by that point it's too late. Since it's not based on real events, the story is entirely made up, I don't know why they chose that location? There doesn't seem to be any reason for being there. It could have easily happened in any number of locations. Did the producers get a deal if they produced the film in South Africa? I wouldn't be surprised.

In Act III, there's an attempt at a reconciliation of the mother and father, but the father finds out he has terminal brain cancer. Not long to live.

And the film doesn't know where to end because it doesn't know what it's about. There's a triumph with a stage production of CAMELOT in which the son performs. That's a good way to end. But no. We have to show the independence ceremony when the country was never part of the story. Finally, the father is buried and people mourn. Make up your mind.

While I know I'm being harsh, it's because the film was muddled and trite. The acting was fine and believable--even the dialogue, but give us more. Give us some real drama and humour. I suppose you could say it was melodramatic. That's probably a good word for it.

Yet, I'll probably use wah-wah. I like that concept.

Posted 2009/02/19 at 17h17ET in Movie Commentary.


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