'Two-Bit Waltz': Film Review

Two Bit Waltz Still - H 2014
Courtesy of EBF Productions

Two Bit Waltz Still - H 2014

Skip this dance

Clara Mamet, daughter of David, makes her feature directorial/screenwriting debut with this quirky comedy

Most twenty-year-olds don't get the opportunity to write and direct their own feature film, let alone one featuring such well-known performers as William H. Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon and David Paymer. But then again, Clara Mamet had some advantages. She's the daughter of playwright/filmmaker David Mamet; Pidgeon is her mother, and Macy and Paymer are longtime associates of her father. Unfortunately, her debut feature Two-Bit Waltz demonstrates more precocity than actual talent.

Clearly influenced less by her famous father than Wes Anderson—one of the film's players, Jared Gilman, was prominently featured in his Moonrise Kingdom—Mamet has crafted a starring vehicle for herself that aims for a deadpan archness but mainly comes across as pretentious. She plays Maude, soon to turn 18, whose life is in a state of disarray. She's suspended from school for, among other things, making a tasteless joke about Anne Frank; she's dumped by the boy to whom she lost her virginity; and her grandmother has just died.

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Granny leaves her a $5 million dollar inheritance in her will, as well as a small figurine of a couple dancing, but there's a caveat. The money is intended for her college education—tuition rates must have gone up considerably in recent years—but the precocious Maude has no interest in pursuing higher education, preferring instead to concentrate on the novel she's supposedly working on.

One of the more irritating screen characters in recent memory, Maude is a chain-smoking, profanity-spewing, self-absorbed brat. Her parents are no better: mom (Pidgeon) is a flake who refers to her daughter as "my beautiful azalea," while oblivious dad (Macy) forever has his nose in a book. She gets along better with her endlessly patient therapist (John Pirruccello), who clearly has his hands full.

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Accentuating the film's excessive level of quirkiness are the repeated dreamlike confrontations in a park between Maude and a variety of imaginary figures, including ballerinas and people with animal heads, who provide spiritual counsel.

Although the ever-reliable Macy and Paymer deliver amusingly deadpan performances, their contributions are unfortunately brief, with the majority of the running time devoted to Mamet's self-regarding, monotonous turn. 

Production: EBF Productions
Cast: Clara Mamet, William H. Macy, Jared Gilman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Matt O'Leary, Ella Dershowitz, John Pirruccello, David Paymer
Director/screenwriter: Clara Mamet
Producer: Eric B. Fleischman
Director of photography: Mac Fisken
Production designer: Emma Toll
Editor: William Rubenstein
Costume designer: Dakota Keller
Composer: Giona Ostinelli

Rated R, 79 min.