Evaluation: A comedy with much on its mind, ‘My Wonderful Wanda’ misses the mark
Only when “My Wonderful Wanda” director Bettina Oberli and her co-writer, Cooky Ziesche, experienced found a more consistent build and focus for this wry tale of love, energy, money and class; their story is fertile area for a warmer, more appealing family satire than is located here — despite several strong moments.
Then there’s the matter associated with lead character Wanda ( Agnieszka Grochowska ), a Polish caregiver and single mom who commutes to Switzerland to look after 70-year-old Josef Wegmeister-Gloor (André Jung), a wealthy businessman paralyzed following a stroke. Josef may think Wanda is “wonderful” — she’s pretty, half his age, has a calming manner and, oh, yes, secretly trades sex along with him for cash — but , as presented here, she’s not vivid or even dimensional enough to invest in her journey.
Exactly the same holds for Josef who seem to, at most, is painted like a cranky narcissist. And what did his elegant wife, Elsa ( Marthe Keller , who is wonderful here), see in him to start with? Were they ever truly in love? Was she just in it for the money as well as the lifestyle — and does that make her no better than Wanda?
More colourful, but also insufficiently drawn, are usually Elsa and Josef’s children: Gregi (Jacob Matschenz), the bird enthusiast with an unreturned passion for Wanda and a reluctance to run the family business (why the seemingly hard-nosed Josef would even wish the hapless man-child in charge — son or not — is another question), and Sophie (Birgit Minichmayr), a sour, childless snob unhappily married to lawyer Manfred (Anatole Taubman). How did Gregi and Sophie become such damaged souls?
Wanda’s protective parents (Cezary Pazura, Agata Rzeszewsk) and her two young sons (Bruno Rajski, Iwo Rajski) also eventually show up at the Wegmeister-Gloors’ lakeside villa, along with a cow that the film really might have done without.
Oberli and Ziesche, who’ve divided the story into 3 chapters plus an epilogue (the less said regarding the plot the better to protect some solid twists), attempt to lay down bare the thorny problem of outsourcing care function to migrants but don’t layer in enough weigh or context to make a wholly satisfying statement.
Still, a busy third act that features Elsa’s wistful realizations, Sophie’s opportunistic turn-around, Gregi’s signs of growth, a frank talk between Wanda and her indignant father, and several other emotionally billed moments help close elements out on a more affecting take note.
‘My Wonderful Wanda’
Inside German and Polish with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Using: Starts 04 23, Laemmle Royal Theater, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on Laemmle Virtual Cinema