Samuel Goldwyn Company
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/11/20
Opens: December 4, 2020

Druk Movie Poster

If you limit yourself to two glasses of wine per day (one for women) you’ll get a buzz. You will feel high, less inhibited, looser tongued, friendlier, more fun. So why do so many people drink until they’re stone drunk, passing out, vomiting, suffering the next day’s hangover? This life of drinking excess which leads to car accidents, broken homes, and lost jobs is a problem greater than people have faced with marijuana, but try as they may, politicians have been markedly unable to stop the disease of drunkenness whether by the 18th amendment, the Volstead Act that put teeth into it, and lectures from the schools and from Alcoholics Anonymous. In “Another Round,” Thomas Vinterberg, whose has often flirted with Dogme 95 (filming with natural light, unfussy camerawork and minimalism such as in his “The Commune” about life in a Danish commune during the 1970s), looks at a quartet of middle-aged high-school teachers “experimenting” with liquor.

One of the teachers I believe, calls attention of his friends to the theory by one Finn Skårderud that we are all born with a 0.5 percent deficiency of blood alcohol. This flaw can easily be corrected if we drank throughout the day but stopped at 8 pm. This concept works well, but only for a while. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a history teacher in a school with small classes, a professional sounding choir singing the praises of Denmark, and uniformed kids following their coach’s instructions to a letter, is unlike any public high school I’ve experienced. They’re a rowdy enough group but let loose with dancing and singing only on graduation day.

Martin, enjoying an alcohol high, becomes a better teacher immediately, quizzing his students about which of three powerful political men they would vote for, but he does not give away their names. Turns out that the vegetarian, the teetotaler, who never cheated on anyone, is the dude they would vote for. You probably know which 20th Century character that is. So: the guy who doesn’t drink is the one who turns out to be pure evil. There is yet another reason to hit the bottle, and you might be envious in the friendship that Martin enjoys with his faculty buddies.

A central theme that is virtually ignored for most of the time but takes on a big role in the concluding third of the film, the time that so many comedies turn serious, is Martin’s trouble with his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) He asks her if she considers him a bore, to which she replies that “you are not the same Martin that I once knew.” Maybe he should have quit then, but while he and his pals go well beyond the 0.5% blood alcohol, Martin’s marriage is headed for the rocks—not the ice that may be in his glass of Smirnoffs.

Though the quartet, one of whom sponsors his 40th birthday party which is the time that is officially the beginning of middle age, is fun to watch, the movie bogs down during the melodramatic third with a generic look at the final breakup of a marriage and an unfortunate occurrence that befalls one of the four. Despite the performance of the reliable Mads Mikkelsen, who enjoyed roles in “At Eternity’s Gate” as a priest during a film about Vincent Van Gogh, and “Arctic,” as a man who is stranded in the Arctic after a plane crash, his only moments of real drama here occur in the final minutes as he dances along with newly graduated high school students. Otherwise, whether pre-alcohol or post, his character is a bore.

The Danish title “Druk” means binge drinking. The film is in Danish with English subtitles.

116 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B+
Technical – B-
Overall – C+


TAMMY’S ALWAYS DYING – movie review

Quiver Distribution
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Amy Jo Johnson
Screenwriter: Joanne Sarazen
Cast: Felicity Huffman, Anastasia Phillips, Clark Johnson, Lauren Holly
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 4/15/20
Opens: May 1, 2020

Sometimes when a little kid cries apparently for no reason, her mother will say, “You ought to be an actress—you cry so easily.” In a story written by Joanne Sarazen in her freshman feature and directed by Amy Jo Johnson, also her first full length narrative film, “Tammy’s Always Dying” finds a the title character’s only daughter Catherine (Anastasia Phillips) able to cry in front of a TV audience so successfully that she receives a new Toyota Camry. For many of us, anything below a Mercedes of a Beamer would be considered chump change, but to Catherine it’s a bigger prize than she had ever seen. Not that her mother Tammy (Felicity Huffman) is better off. Both mother and daughter are sad sacks, losers, the kinds of people who, if American not Canadian, might vote for Trump not realizing that nobody, not even a slick-talking pseudo-populist, could help such deadbeats.

From beginning to end, Tammy and Catherine MacDonald (strangely, in real life mother and daughter are only ten years apart) we can predict that the two are going nowhere in life, having missed any opportunity at the right time to advance a career or even consider such an unusual thing to strive for.

So we’re left with wondering: is there anything about these two women to make us care about them? Do we know anything about why mom is depressed to the point of regularly considering jumping from a bridge, or daughter so easily manipulated by her mother that she has little pleasurable to think about save a quicky against the wall with married Reggie (Aaron Ashmore)? At least she has one person who shows he cares about her, her gay boss in a seedy bar, Doug (Clark Johnson) who treats her occasionally to dinner and doesn’t mind when she sleeps past her alarm and shows up late.

We know nothing about them. No backstory to give clues to why chain-smoking Tammy is always depressed, why she confesses to Catherine that she always loved her but could never show it, and how Catherine winds up like the rotten apple that does not fall far from the tree.

When Dr. Miller (Ayesha Mansur Gonzalves), a poised, confident woman who is the exact opposite of the two women, diagnoses Tammy with Stage 4 cancer, Catherine moves in with her. Yet the younger woman nonetheless on why day shouts “Why don’t you die, already?” With that in mind, she asks to be a guest on a TV show featuring women who cry about their tragic lives, wins a place and is coached by its producer Ilana (Lauren Holly). She invents a tale that her mother had committed suicide, a death wish that could apply to Catherine as well as to Tammy.

From the opening scene, this movie looks like little more than a vanity format for Felicity Huffman, perhaps able to scrounge up an audience based on her recent conviction of trying to buy her daughter a place as a freshman in USC. Otherwise the two people who must carry the film are so empty, so irritating, that the project is difficult to sit through.

85 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C