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BETWEEN WHIMSY AND DYSFUNCTION IN `WAH-WAH'.



Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

Richard E. Grant Richard E. Grant (born May 5, 1957) is a British actor known for portraying the world-weary, drug-crazed alcoholic Withnail in Withnail and I. Biography
Early life
Grant was born Richard Grant Esterhuysen
, the smart, lanky English actor (``Withnail and I,'' ``Gosford Park''), grew up in the small African country of Swaziland, where his father worked for the last British colonial government before independence.

``Wah-Wah,'' which Grant wrote and directed, is his fictionalized coming-of-age story. It's fairly interesting and certainly unique, what with its expatriate twits at the end of their wits and arm's-length appreciation of dawning equality for the African majority.

But other than that, it's somewhat standard storytelling. A sensitive boy approaches manhood while infidelity, alcoholism and a stepmother with strange ways upend his comfy home, and he finds some kind of solace in rebellion and the arts. No doubt Grant experienced a lot of what's depicted, and he certainly captures it persuasively. A crack cast does the best it can with the perceptive but often unexciting material, too. In the end, a movie that could have been simultaneously universal and exotic comes off, for the most part, fairly mundane and odd.

It starts off quite shockingly, though, with a brazen act of adultery on the part of young Ralph Compton's mother. Played as a preteen pre·teen
adj.
1. Relating to or designed for children especially between the ages of 10 and 12.

2. Being a child especially between the ages of 10 and 12; preadolescent.

n.
A preteen boy or girl.
 by Zachary Fox, Ralph loves his mum, Lauren (Miranda Richardson), and despite her carrying on, the affection seems more or less mutual.

But Lauren has had it up past her neck with her ineffectual husband Harry (Gabriel Byrne For the Irish radio and television presenter, see .

Gabriel Byrne (born 12 May, 1950) is an Irish actor.

Born in Dublin Ireland, the first of six children born to devoutly Roman Catholic parents, Byrne was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers.
). The minister of education, Harry's a nice guy when he's sober, but his wife's infidelity and fears about his post-colonial job prospects make him a mean drunk. After Lauren runs off with her lover, Harry gets worse. For the good of all concerned, resentful Ralph is shipped off to boarding school.

Returning two years later, now played by ``About a Boy's'' Nicholas Hoult, Ralph finds Harry more dissolute dis·so·lute  
adj.
Lacking moral restraint; indulging in sensual pleasures or vices.



[Middle English, from Latin dissol
 than ever. Even more disturbing, he's neglected to inform his son that he's remarried. To a gauche American, no less. Who was, even more embarrassing, an airline stewardess.

Emily Watson's Ruby, however, is determined to connect with her reluctant stepson step·son  
n.
A spouse's son by a previous union.


stepson
Noun

a son of one's husband or wife by an earlier relationship

Noun 1.
. Her clever vulgarity -- the film's title is her term for silly-sounding English turns of phrase -- strikes Ralph as a good way to stick it to the pretentious colonial gentry (it's the late 1960s, after all). They also become close domestic allies as Harry's depression and rages grow more severe.

For fun, there's a goofy production of ``Camelot'' the Brits try to mount in honor of Princess Margaret, who's heading to Swaziland for the independence ceremonies. For angst, there's still Lauren, who keeps popping in, unwelcomed by everybody but her still devoted son. Eventually, an African character or two even gets to do a little more than just act like a happy servant.

Grant clearly made ``Wah-Wah'' with a lot of affection, but not so much that he soft-pedals extremely difficult family dysfunctions. To his credit, Ralph gets no special dispensation DISPENSATION. A relaxation of law for the benefit or advantage of an individual. In the United States, no power exists, except in the legislature, to dispense with law, and then it is not so much a dispensation as a change of the law. ; he's as much a whiny brat as he is Mr. Sensitive, Misunderstood Adolescent.

A perfectly respectable filmmaking debut, ``Wah-Wah'' simply leaves us feeling that there could have been more to the story.

Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670

bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

WAH-WAH - Two and one half stars

(R: sex, language, substance abuse, nudity, racism)

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Nicholas Hoult, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters Julia Mary Walters, OBE (born February 22, 1950) is an award-winning English actress and a novelist. Biography
Early life
Walters was born in Smethwick, Birmingham, West Midlands, England to Thomas Walters, a builder and decorator, and Mary Bridget O'Brien, an
 

Director: Richard E. Grant.

Running time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; ArcLight, Hollywood; Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica Santa Monica (săn`tə mŏn`ĭkə), city (1990 pop. 86,905), Los Angeles co., S Calif., on Santa Monica Bay; inc. 1886. Tourism and retailing are important, and the city has motion-picture, biotechnology, and software industries. ; Landmark Westside Pavilion, West Los Angeles
  • West Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, a neighborhood of Los Angeles
  • West Los Angeles (region), a popularly identified region of Los Angeles, incorporating the neighborhood above
; Edwards South Coast Village 3, Costa Mesa.

In a nutshell: Set in the small African nation of Swaziland on the eve On the Eve (Накануне in Russian) is the third novel by famous Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, best known for his short stories and the novel Fathers and Sons.  of its independence from Britain, unusual coming-of-age story sometimes stumbles into forced melodrama and twitty English whimsy whim·sy also whim·sey  
n. pl. whim·sies also whim·seys
1. An odd or fanciful idea; a whim.

2. A quaint or fanciful quality: stories full of whimsy.
.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

In colonial Swaziland, the divide between father Harry (Gabriel Byrne) and son Ralph (Nicholas Hoult) is made all the wider by depression and alcoholism in ``Wah-Wah.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 2006
Words:644
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