We Found It on Watch Instantly: Emmanuelle Chriqui in Waltzing Anna

What It’s About: A corrupt elderly caregiver is sentenced to give more care to the elderly at a nursing home, which is filled with different types of characters and lessons.

Who It’s For: The guy who has to cut the sizzle reel for the writer/actor’s funeral video.

When I first spoke with the Grantland folks about Netflix Watch Instantly, I stressed that I wanted to focus on a very certain kind of title. Yes, campy genre films offer many things to talk about, and so too do terrible mainstream movies, but nothing interested me as much as the profoundly and deeply mediocre things I write about here. They exist in a spooky Middle Place. (You’d need a tesseract to travel there alone.) Movies, from everything I’ve read, are very hard to make. Not difficult necessarily, but they absolutely require many different people saying yes, many different times. “Is this script good enough? Should we cast the guy whose face and neck look like that to play someone handsome? Can I please have more money so we can do a scene near a lake?” Mediocre movies are fascinating, because why would anyone bother?

More than anything I’ve watched for Queue Review, or ever for that matter, Waltzing Anna had me saying “why” aloud again and again, to no one in particular. (That is not a rhetorical flourish. I honest to God said “why” into the air of my empty apartment more than once.) Why did they start making this movie? Why did they not stop? Why did the writer of the movie think he could write a movie, much less cast himself as the romantic lead, especially since it seems like he’s not done getting therapy for his speech impediment? Why is a movie with such a festering, open disregard for old people dedicated to the writer/star’s grandfather? So many questions and no easy answers. You know that thing in movies where something scary happens and kid cover their faces with their hands, but then they peek out through their fingers? I did not think that happened in real life, but I did the face-palm-peek many times last night. Everything coming out of my TV was so disorienting and unsettling that there were moments I found I could handle the audio or the video, but not both. I guess synchronized moving pictures and sound were too much for my brain to process. I felt like the first guy watching a talkie. “Will they all be like this? It’ll never catch on.” Waltzing Anna does have the distinction of being the first romantic comedy about Medicare fraud. The moral of the movie is, “It’s pretty easy to do and we have very few systems in place to stop it.”

Dr. Charlie Keegan (Robert Capelli Jr.) is a scummy New York City “senior specialist” who advertises on TV (red flag) and hates the elderly. He makes his living by ripping off their hard earned fixed incomes and by having a gross face and voice. After getting caught (for the ripping off, not the face-having), the medical board sentences him to six months working at a nursing home in the middle of nowhere. This is a nightmare for him because he wears loose fitting shiny shirts and likes dirty martinis. Despite that, it’s still a puzzling punishment. I don’t think you should send a guy who preys on old people in a city to a faraway place filled with old people. He has been proven to enjoy taking advantage them and now you are taking away witnesses and accountability. It’s like sentencing a Peeping Tom to developing film at a Walgreens.

As predicted, Keegan hates the nursing home, but not for the reason you might think. A local bar won’t make him a martini, so he has to drink a beer, and later, out of desperation, he drinks an Ensure out of a martini glass. (Rich big city folk love martinis.) But his hate seems to stem from the fact that he simply can’t stand being a doctor. When he walks into a room where a patient has soiled himself, he screams and almost throws up. I am not saying it’s fun to see somebody soiled, or that even the most compassionate doctor loves it every time (I bet some love it every time), but presumably this guy went to medical school. (He says he went to Harvard.) He’s done his rotations, so he’s probably seen a BUNCH of old butts. It’s odd how foreign “healing people” is to him. It’s almost like this is a movie about a guy pretending to be a doctor, but it’s not. It is not Catch Me If You Anna.

Keegan meets Nurse Jill (Emanuelle Chriqui) and relentlessly sexually harasses her. She hates it, because he is a disgusting monster without compassion or intelligence. But eventually all his charm (“No way am I doing poop duty!”) wears her down and she falls in love with him because they play pool one time and also he smiles at an old lady. The title of the film refers to a patient named Anna. Nurse Jill has been letting her waltz at night and it’s curing Anna’s Alzheimer’s. A charming nursing home resident named Mo falls in love with Anna, even though she is barely verbal, and he is played by Pat Hingle. Hingle is a very recognizable character actor, most famous to my generation for playing Commissioner Gordon in the first four Batman films. I spent a lot of this movie wishing I was watching Batman. It is sad that this was one of Mr. Hingle’s last films.

Miles from Murphy Brown (Grant Shaud) plays the villain JD Reno, the head of the nursing home. Reno is keeping the nursing home residents over-medicated and is triple-writing their prescriptions, selling the extras to the highest bidder. Keegan’s misgivings are what precipitate his character’s redemption, but it makes no sense because what Reno is doing is exactly what Keegan did for years and years. Keegan testifies that Reno is corrupt, Reno goes to jail, and Keegan decides to take over the nursing home along with Nurse Jill. He is no longer a scumbag, I guess. This movie should have ended with a scene of Keegan at the local bar. The bartender’d say, “Let me guess. Dirty martini, Ketel One?” And Keegan would smile and say, “You know what? Make it a BEER!” Then everyone laughs and kisses. But it didn’t end that way. It ended with all the residents playing football in the driveway, which I guess means they’re healthy. One of the doctors was a British gentlemen germophobe the whole movie but now he feels OK kissing Nurse Jill’s hand. This confusing, because none of the plot points seemed to be concerned with fixing his germophobia.

In summation, the plot is nonsense, no one is likable, the actors each seemed to be in a different movie, the jokes don’t work, the lead’s not charming, it’s mean to old people, the sluggish editing made me feel like I was on pain pills, and the score sounded like video game credit music on a broken Gameboy. Pat Hingle is funny though, and he was really good in Batman. Go watch Batman.

When You Should Watch It: when you don’t have access to any of the Batman films, or any other films.

Previously: We Found It on Watch Instantly: Louis Gossett Jr. in The Lamp
We Found It on Watch Instantly: Wesley Snipes in Game of Death
We Found It on Watch Instantly: T.R. Knight in The Last Request

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Filed Under: Movies, Netflix, Queue Review