Release Date: August 11, 2006 (limited)
Every so often a film comes along that really just blows me away. A timeless and original love story, an engaging drama, or even a ruckus comedy may do the trick. And it is this reason that I try to see as many movies as humanly possible without losing my real job. It is this reason that I have decided to pursue my dream of becoming a film critic; this reason that I work so hard at it; and that all leads to where we are right now… You, reading this review. Those are the movies for which I hold a special place in my heart. And every once in a while I think that I have sniffed one out, a film that just may be the next great thing.
I thought that I had one in the little indie Waltzing Anna at first, but as I progressed through the film I found that I was sadly mistaken. What I thought was going to be a potentially heartwarming and fresh experience was anything but, and it turned into just another flick that I only desired to see once.
The story of Waltzing Anna centers around Charlie, a scheming doctor whose practice takes advantage of seniors and their medical insurance to make a quick buck. And I believe that it is when I first encountered Charlie, played by Robert Capelli Jr., who is one of those actors that I could very easily forget. His performance is more of an annoyance than anything else, and it detracts significantly from a film that really showed promise and makes an attempt at being genuine. The filmmakers also tossed the very beautiful, but very often poorly cast Emmanuelle Chriqui into the mix as Nurse Jill, the intelligent but stereotypical girl who is worth a guy going from contemptible to chivalrous all in the matter of a 85 minute movie. Nurse Jill is a nurse at the Shady Pines home for the aging, where Charlie is sent as punishment when the state realizes what kind of shenanigans are abound in his medical practice. Once he arrives he soon discovers that Shady is more than a name to this place, and the owner and head nurse of the joint (played by Grant Shaud and Marilyn Chris) is dealing prescription pills out the back door. And the only genuine person in the bunch who is interested in helping the old folks, you guessed it, the equally noble and attractive Nurse Jill. Clich© doesn’t even describe this one accurately.
But there is one minor, shining bit of hope in this film, and it comes from the supporting cast of geriatric actors who comprise the inmates, I mean patients of Shady Pines. Pat Hingle plays Mo, the eccentric, energetic and extremely lovable loudmouth who falls for a mystery guest named Anna (played by Betsy Palmer.) One day the mysterious Anna was found wandering along the road, abandoned by her rich and unbearable daughter, and the next thing she knows she is falling in love with Mo and being cured of her Alzheimer’s simultaneously. This subplot, set behind the budding relationship of the two younger stars thankfully overwhelms us and gives us something to feel good about in a movie that often feels fake.
And the fact that we have these two intertwining storylines is only the beginning of the film’s true demise. The pace of the film really suffers due to the fact that it tries to tell too many stories at once. Aside from the two love stories that exist, there are about 10 other side stories about other residents in the nursing home that have very little relevance and just cause the film to bounce back an forth from one to the other, causing disinterest on the part of the audience. I can see why it was done, because the relationship between Charlie and Jill is shallow at best, but it doesn’t save the film, rather, it makes it worse.
In the end, the movie does show some heart even though it is immaculately cheesy and the main character is personified with such a foul performance. Hingle really makes the movie fun, adding just the right amount of humor and emotion to keep us interested long enough to see the final credits. And with that said, I cannot bring myself to give Waltzing Anna a horrible rating, but I don’t think I would recommend it. It is not as feel good as intended and the story suffers from too many storylines happening at once and no great performances to carry the load. If you really have nothing better to see, then this one has potential to be heartfelt, but it is just too much of a risk to take.
The Upside: Pat Hingle does give the movie a lift of humor and sentiment that makes it bearable.
The Downside: Actor Robert Capelli Jr. Who cast this guy?
On the Side: Pat Hingle was the narrator for the animated film The Land Before Time, which was one of my favorite movies as a kid.