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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Waltzing Anna

MOVIE REVIEWS

WALTZING ANNA (2006)

Starring Robert Capelli Jr., Emmanuelle Chriqui, Pat Hingle, Betsy Palmer, Artie Lange, Grant Shaud, Paige Turco, Casey Siemaszko, Chenoa Andon, Marilyn Chris, Ed Jewitts, Jason Kravits, Niko Kritikos, Adam Lefevre, Marcella Lowery, Mackenzie Milone, Armando Riesco, Jamel Scott, Galeit Sehayek and Shelby Young.

Screenplay by Doug Bollinger, Robert Capelli Jr. & Guy Shockley.

Directed by Bx Giongrete & Doug Bollinger.

Distributed by Baxter Films.  101 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

Waltzing Anna

A few years ago, Robert Capelli, Jr. and Doug Bollinger made a kind of silly comedy called Mail Order Bride, in which they got some pretty impressive talent like Danny Aiello, Ilana Milicevic, Vincent Pastore and past and current Howard Stern sidekicks Jackie Martling and Artie Lange.  The movie was savaged by critics and never received wide release, but you have to give it to the guys, they are taking another shot.

Here, again, they get some relatively well-known actors Emmanuelle Chriqui, Grant Shaud, Betsy Palmer, Paige Turco and Casey Siemaszko.  Lange is also back, though it is a glorified cameo despite the fact he gets prominent billing he only has a couple of scenes.

From an original story by Guy Shockley (who was also going to direct this as his first film before his tragically young death), Waltzing Anna is juggling a lot of balls it's trying to be a romantic comedy, a feel-good reminder that the elderly are people too, a tale of redemption and an expose of the nursing home industry. 

Maybe the three writers should have tried to scale back a bit, because despite all the ideas, none of them really works too well.  Robert Capelli, Jr. plays Dr. Charlie Keegan, a pop-eyed and wild-haired charlatan doctor who has long ago forgotten his hippocratic oath and now considers medicine to be a way to get easy medicare money.  When arrested for scamming patients, he is sentenced to six months of community service in a nursing facility called Shady Pines.

At first life at the facility fits in perfectly with his cynical attitude, the home's director (Grant Shaud of Murphy Brown) and head nurse are even bigger crooks than him.  However, eventually he meets a gorgeous, dedicated nurse Jill (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and a whole group of "crusty but lovable" (thanks, Paddy Chayefsky, for that perfect description) nursing home residents.  There is the old coot with a heart of gold, the aging slut, the sweet-but-addled Alzheimer's patient, the guy constantly waiting for his son who never visits.

Dr. Keegan wants nothing to do with these people, but eventually he discovers mostly through nurse Jill who despises the doctor at first but slowly thaws to his thuggish charms that these elderly patients are vital, interesting people.  As almost always in her career (On the Line, In the Mix, National Lampoon's Adam and Eve, Waiting) Chriqui is much better than her material (in fact, only in her recurring role of E's girlfriend in Entourage does she seem more than window-dressing to filmmakers.)

When, suddenly, out of the blue, Jill off-handedly acknowledges that she has fallen in love with him, the audience is every bit as flummoxed by the revelation as he is.  She has only recently seemed to kind of start to respect and like him the jump is too far.  It also makes it hard to exactly gauge Charlie's new attitude does he really care for these patients or is he just trying to get laid?

Of course, Dr. Keegan should be used to schizophrenic character shifts, because his character and beliefs change with the wind.  He is supposed to be a heartless scam artist, but we never quite buy that because he really can't pull off ruthlessness.  Nor do we really believe it when he has a complete transformation to realize that he loves the old people he is watching over, because even well into his "transformation" he often still acts like a selfish asshole, just because the plot requires a bit of conflict.  Of course, the fact that Capelli seems to be channeling his character from an old Bowery Boys short makes it even harder to connect with him.   

By the end, the movie gets extremely heavy-handed lots of dramatic scenes of desperate older people and overpowering background music dramatize the true (but somewhat obvious) scandal of how people of a certain age are mistreated or forgotten.  Dr. Keegan finally finds his conscience and commits himself to his patients and gets the love of his hot nurse as a special bonus.  It may just be his best scam yet.

Waltzing Anna has its heart in the right place, but it's just not a good enough movie to make its valid and important points.  (8/06)

Dave Strohler

Copyright 2006   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: August 7, 2006.

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Copyright 2006   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: August 7, 2006.