~Rob Fenimore

This is Rob’s second review for GGA and we’re pleased as punch with the guy. He’ll be reviewing new releases plus movies that you can find from the comfy of your own couch. Or bed. Or backyard lawn chair. Whatever makes you happy! Follow Rob on twitter, here!

I’m a sucker for quirky films that ask me to give them just a few minutes early on to immerse me in their weird little world. No strings attached, just give them a chance to show us what they’ve got. The Royal Tenenbaums and Henry Poole Is Here are examples of this and I really enjoyed those films. IMDB’s description of Two-Bit Waltz appeared to fit this mold, and with William H. Macy in the cast and a running time of only 81 minutes, I decided to give it a shot, not knowing much else about it.

I did not realize going in that the film was written and directed by the film’s star, Clara Mamet. As it turns out she is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet. I also did not realize that it was she who played Amber Weaver in The Neighbors television show, which was one of my recent favorites until it was stupidly canceled. Based on this, Two-Bit Waltz was guaranteed a few extra minutes of my attention regardless of its merit. And, truthfully, it needed it.

The first few minutes of the film contained very short scenes that reminded me of old television variety show skits. They seemed haphazard and disjointed, and weren’t really that funny. This did not bode well, but I am glad I stuck with it, as I was eventually drawn into the weirdness. Two-Bit Waltz is the story of Maude, who is just about to turn 18. She is suddenly placed in the position of having to figure out if and where she wants to go to college. She clearly doesn’t want to make this decision but she is swept towards it by those around her.

Maude’s family is predictably (Tenenbaumesquely?) strange. Her father, played by Macy (Macy himself has starred in a number of David Mamet plays), spends almost every moment on screen with a book in his hand, often reading under his bed. Her mother (played excellently by Mamet’s real mom, Rebecca Pidgeon, who is also no stranger to David Mamet works) seems to be on a different plane of existence than the rest of the family. The most mature person in the house is Maude’s younger brother, Bernie (Jared Gilman). The actors do a great job of letting the love shine through the crazy.

two bit waltz

I’m not sure if this makes sense, but to me the story in Two-Bit Waltz is simply a generic canvas that allows Mamet to create her real work of art here. The film centers on Maude’s relationship with the external – family, friends, and the world at large, while spending an equal amount of time reflecting on Maude’s relationship with herself. The film’s hidden strength, however, and really its importance, is Mamet’s exploration of isolation, loneliness, and uniqueness, and their place in life, especially in the life of an artist.

While not the best or most refined of its kind, Two-Bit Waltz left me with plenty to ponder. I enjoyed the imagery and I thought the acting, especially Maude’s immediate family, was solid. It is certainly worth investing 81 minutes of your life. I give it 3 out of 5 stars if you liked the Tenenbaums, 2 if you didn’t.

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Rob Fenimore
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