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Wah-Wah Reviews

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Anthony L

Super Reviewer

January 6, 2014
You can't really argue with someones own account of their own childhood. This is Richard E Grant's childhood, written and directed by the man himself. It would be a little preposterous to say that it's rubbish, not true, etc but my question would be; was his childhood so theatrical? Seriously, if you like all things thespian then go for it but I found the over-acting and over the top performances to be quite grating.
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

November 2, 2011
Sentimental and well meaning, the first writing/directing credit for Richard E.Grant (a favorite actor of mine) and auto-biographical as well. The damned Brits are losing their very last colonial holding as those that do the actual work of holding party like its the end of the world.
LWOODS04
LWOODS04

Super Reviewer

August 27, 2009
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Nicholas Hoult, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Michael Richards, Julian Wadham, Fenella Woolgar, Ian Roberts

Director: Richard E. Grant

Summary: In his directing debut, Richard E. Grant dishes up a slice of his Swaziland boyhood. As the sun sets on Britain's colony, young Ralph Compton (played by Zachary Fox and later Nicholas Hoult) catches his mom, Lauren (Miranda Richardson), in a compromising position -- sending his dad, Harry (Gabriel Byrne), crawling into a bottle. The couple divorces and Harry remarries, but just as Ralph warms to his stepmom, Lauren turns up to reclaim her family.

My Thoughts: "This semi-autobiographical story set in his birthplace of Swaziland is a raw and honest look into the life of Richard E. Grant as a boy dealing with the separation of his parents and his father's habit with alcohol. The movie gives you an honest look at what it's like to live with an alcoholic and how it affects the family. You feel a lot of sympathy for Ralph as you witness with him the separation of his parents and his father's downfall with alcohol. His step-mom Ruby brings some light to his dark world. The film is listed as a comedy, and although there are some funny parts, I would label this as more a dark drama. The film is filled with very interesting character's that really make the film great. With a great story, acting, and direction, it makes this film one to see."
Gx7
Gx7

Super Reviewer

August 27, 2008
A wonderfully strong ensemble, the story however, is quite complex. There was just too many things that happened, perhaps Richard Grant just threw in a bit too much in this? I loved the mini pockets of treats they placed in the movie though, (Clips from The Clockwork Orange & the mini screenplay practices of Camelot).

The story is almost made to get you into a "steady emotional wave", from calm to heart piercing and to heart warming and back again.

Plot: "Set during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, South East Africa, in 1969, the plot focuses on the dysfunctional Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end of British rule."

Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters, Emily Watson, and Nicholas Hoult (the kid in 'About a boy'). --- "Wah-Wah is loosely based on Richard Grants (the Directors) own childhood experiences..." or so he says.

Genre: Drama
Side-comment: Perhaps this is a film thats not for everyones liking. I liked it though
shauna1354
shauna1354

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2007
Interesting film to watch, with an excellent cast. Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Julie Waters and the young Nicholas Hoult. I was very impressed with Richard E. Grant's writing and directing skills, and was astonished that this was the story of his childhood. Even with it's flaws, it was still a very entertaining film to sit through.
nuheart
nuheart

Super Reviewer

January 3, 2007
Richard E. Grant's directorial debut is an autobiographical account of his youth in Swaziland in the early 70s. While it's well-made -- the performances and Grant's direction are faultless -- it was missing something when it came to character motivation. Still a great film and an excellent debut.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

July 31, 2007
[font=Century Gothic]"Wah-Wah" starts with 12-year old Ralph(Zachary Fox) watching his mother(Miranda Richardson) getting hot and heavy with a man(Ian Roberts) who is not Ralph's father(Gabriel Byrne), a colonial education officer, from the back seat of a car in 1969 in Swaziland, South East Africa. Later, she makes things official by packing her bags and leaving the premises. Ralph can no longer stand to be in the company of his father, and leaves for the greener pastures of boarding school...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]...two years later, Ralph(Nicholas Hoult) returns to discover that his father has married Ruby(Emily Watson), an American ex-stewardess, after only knowing each other six weeks.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by Richard E. Grant, "Wah-Wah" is an inconsistent and uneven movie that veers dangerously from soap opera to broad comedy and back again. It is set as Swaziland is gaining its long overdue independence from Great Britain and hopefully they never again have to deal with the colonials whose main pastimes are drinking, fornication, cricket and musical theatre.(Like "White Mischief," "Wah-Wah" somehow manages to make decadence boring.) That having been said, the film's sympathy is somehow on the side of the English instead of the natives. All of which is partially redeemed by another grand performance from Emily Watson, even if she is playing the stereotypical brash American opposite reserved English.(A la "Shadowlands.") Oh well, I do suppose I cannot be picky about what movies Miranda Richardson appears in nowadays... [/font]
David S

Super Reviewer

March 7, 2009
A competently made film from Grant with some good performances, especially from Watson and Byrne but this feels just too personal to make it an entertaining view. There is very little humour involved until the Camelot production near the end and by that point it's too late. Although we're expected to sympathise with Bryne's character we aren't given enough time to see the warm father before he becomes the raging drunk and therefore it's difficult to care and the film feels a little unrelenting. Having read the book it's also clear to see where some of the budget and time issues affected the overall look of the film, especially in the shooting scene which is lacking one or two shots that will make it work. I hope Grant gets to direct again as he obviously has a good eye and can eleicit performances from his actors but it would need to be a less personal project next time.
StaisilD
June 19, 2008
Wah-Wah is Richard E. Grant's largely autobiographical portrait of 1960s Swaziland, Britain's last colonial holdout. Gabriel Byrne is eerily realistic as a man trapped by circumstance and his own bad habits. Emily Watson's Ruby is the kind of woman who can arrive somewhere and change the whole community with her charisma and rebellious nature. Nicholas Hoult has the potential to become a fine actor with considerable range. Unfortunately, Wah-Wah never realizes its potential. While Ralph's life would feel chaotic and bipolar, we need more consistency as an audience. We are tossed from happy to sad moments with no warning; characters are introduced and reintroduced; and there's no chance for us to settle into the story.
sfazenbaker
April 15, 2008
Fantastic movie. Viewed at the Philadelphia Film Festival a year or so ago. Emily Watson does not disappoint in this one.
gms1yygy
April 14, 2008
Based on a real story. Based in a real time in South Africa. Want to see an alcoholic at his worst? See it! I liked almost everything about this movie except the father's last words. It's not long enough to be as detailed as you might like, but it's long enough to tell an interesting story.
captainmorgan4
November 18, 2007
Very very heavy drama! I thought it was going to be light fare, but this quickly became extremely deep. Good acting, though.
February 24, 2007
this was really well done, but.. can someone tell me what they were watching when they made the trailer?.. It doesn't even seem like the same movie.. It was serious, funny, sad... everything all in one.. and deals with some of the hardest human emotions to fake.

Everyone did a great job.
May 1, 2007
Total melodrama but devoid of any emotional connection. It's bad when a main character dies or gets upset and the viewer (in this case me) doesn't care.
adecker31
February 27, 2007
An almost...but a lot of good stuff. A little slow, for those that like things to keep moving along...
June 8, 2013
Looks pretty boring, or lets say, looks boring as hell
September 17, 2012
Has a strong opening, great cast, and plenty of worthwhile moments throughout, but the parts don't quite add up to a whole.
justjoustin
December 21, 2011
Fascinating, and well performed by a diverse ensemble. There are a little too many stories to follow, however when it focuses on his immediate relationships it really has a warm, touching quality. It's also beautifully shot with vibrant colours.
anmarika
June 14, 2007
Friday, 25 May 2007

Wah Wah, 2005
Writer / Director Richard E Grant, Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters, Emily Watson, Nicholas Hoult (you might recognise the eyebrows from About a Boy)

We saw this special screening as part of the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival. We watched Wah Wah first. Apparently the names have been changed and the timeline needed to be condensed in places, but the script is close to true events. The film's story starts in 1969, Swaziland independence, it's the end of the British colonialist era.

Simple narrative throughout the film - it opens with a key scene - Richard's character, Ralph, is "asleep" in the backseat of a car and his mum is having it off with his dad's bestie - nice. Later at home his parents argue and next morning his mother sneaks off with her lover. Gwynnie (the jilted wife of the love quadrangle) and a horsy woman buzz round newly single dad, lots of booze involved. Ralph's despatched to boarding school. On a home visit a few years later he meets Ruby, "surprise! here's your new step mum!" Bit of teen rebellion - typical "you're not my mum" reaction and drug experimentation. Gets involved in a community play, which seals love of performing arts. There's a tense gun scene as dad's drinking spirals out of control. Dad finally kicks his addiction with antibooze pills but by this time he's already driven away wifey No.2. Wifey No. 1 returns - disaster - she's still a selfish B$%CH and given the boot. Wifey No.2 comes back again but tragedy - dad's been diagnosed with terminal illness. Last scenes set in hospital, then at funeral.

I didn't find it hard to like Wah Wah - great cast and unpretentious story. It's hard to remember now but back then kids mostly acted like kids instead of growing up far too soon, possibly because adults didnt involve kids so much in their affairs and strictly controlled who & what they saw and did.

Ralph's" upbringing in Swaziland have some similarities to NZ society in the 70s and the clinging to outdated customs from the "motherland". Many people whose parents broke up around this era can probably relate; divorce back then was still frowned upon and very much a social stigma - more so for women than men. Adults didn't discuss and barely explained things to children - a throw back to the Victorian "children should be seen and not heard". That old aunty / uncle nonsense is also a common memory ? supposedly a sign of respect and affection towards close family friends despite no blood relation.

A couple of scenes stand out: Ralph and mum are standing on a bridge and he realises she didnt come home for them - it was because her boyfriend was being sent to Peru. Ralph emotionally and mentally breaks ties with his mum as it hits him she will never be the mother he wants - the emotional shock is communicated to the audience using a handheld camera & change in film speed. Another device is used for another scene involving emotional shock / realisation - when Ruby brings him back home after the gun incident and Ralph happens to say something about the root cause of his dad's drinking. We see the car stop and Ruby quickly runs outs of frame as Ralph goes to talk to his dad.

Wah Wah Q&A with Richard E Grant

REG is - funny, entertaining, gracious ("I thank you for your question"), expressive, uses colourful language, unpretentious, honest.

Interviewer with broken mike "blah blah", difficult to focus on their conversation; I fixated on reading REG's body language - performer is constantly moving, almost more interesting than the words that are being spoken.

Noticeable change in behaviour to previous day's TV1 interview (typical i/v of most actors I've seen-fresh off the plane-jet lag to blame?) where interviewer asked the obvious quickfire questions about the film - only short time to capture few soundbytes.

Q&A - questions posed by audience included:

Person at front (out of view) asked 2 questions (greedy!), frustratingly struggled to form words, wants to make a film about scientist father - an expose. 1st question was about retaining creative control. REG told story about making Wah Wah and how the producer tried to take out two key scenes, including the one where his father whispers "I still love your mother". "If you don't stick to your ideas then you may as well just bend over and take a bus up you", REG advised.

Other question was about how to decide on what the story is about & what to focus on - should the film be about the relationship with her father or informing public? REG says write the screenplay and it will reveal itself.

Funny story about work permits and visas - crew arrived in Swaziland days before filming due to start after 5 years of preparation. Official screamed for half an hour, rang producer (who supposed to arrange) who said to ask permission from the King - authorisation granted but stuck with 330K fine.

Another behind-the-scenes story about the funeral scene - REG admitted to committing some kind of cinematic incest as the girl playing his character's girlfriend was his 18yo daughter. Friend who attended actual funeral was evangelical, thought he could raise the dead, leapt on to coffin in ground, ripped off lid. Had to resist urge to look, in case father happened to rise like Lazarus. Feedback from previews was not to include the coffin scene in film -"too Monty Python", audience would lose narrative thread which starts from the time his dad is diagnosed and is later shown in hospital and the final key scene when dad hands over his watch and reveals secret about still loving his 1st wife.

REG says... country is part of his DNA, goes back annually. English speaking countries like Africa and Australia, even NZ, the landscape is part of our identity, this is not the same in UK. [Perhaps this is why our countries are like a separate character in our films?].

"I know you" audience member - a guy in the audience apparently taught REGs daughter in a choir back in the UK. "I live here now" he says. REG says "it agrees with you... you seem more relaxed than back then". [Did the man come just for the recognition or does he genuinely like festival films?].

REG talked about the transition from actor to writer/director - he likes controlling all the details. Another director, Ridley Scott said [for him] it's like being pecked to death by pigeons, but REG loved people constantly coming to him to make decisions about 1000s of small details. As an actor you have to deal with things getting cut out but as a writer / director you get to decide on final content.

Another question raised about how REG dealt with the autobiographical nature of the film, and how to maintain objectivity? When REG wrote the rough draft he dealt with thoughts and feelings about his family then. By the time the actors actually get to perform the script it's gone through a huge change process. To bring a story to the screen required REG to condense some events which actually occurred over a few years into a few scenes but essentially the result was true to real events.

Is there a the problem of living people recognising themselves? REG says people generally don't recognise themselves as characters. REG has done impersonations to their face and they believed he was doing someone else.

Did mother approve? REG admits his mum is vain and self obsessed. A friend says that she loved the portrayal of her son angsting over her absence, that his father drank over her and on his deathbed declared his unrequited love.

Tales of audience reaction - REG was pleased that at premieres the audience was happy and sad at the appropriate bits. The most extreme audience reaction was from the Canadians who couldn?t wait to leap up, Oprah style, and shout YES! I too had a father like that!
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