Waiter Alex van Warmerdam

Waiter Alex van Warmerdam
Sharp-eyed readers will note the similarity of this Dutch meta-farce to last year’s Stranger than Fiction: both films posit a fictional character aware of the writer who’s creating (and destroying) his life. But while Waiter is a great deal more sour and bilious, it’s not, alas, more entertaining.

Director Alex van Warmerdam assays the role of Edgar, a hapless 50-ish waiter whose life is a mess of sick wives, unhappy mistresses, criminal neighbours and obnoxious customers. So unhappy is he with the situation that he takes up his problems with the hack who’s cooking them up, only to be blown off, then capriciously rewritten to the annoyance of the writer’s long-suffering girlfriend.

For the most part, this is the comedy of mortification, with various terrible things happening to Edgar for reasons of pure viciousness. But none of the situations are clever enough to have any bite, and one feels more ill towards the real writer of the movie than the character who stands in for him. The post-modern gimmick isn’t used for any discernible purpose; it’s just an excuse to drag out the torment of a hapless sucker we don’t particularly like in the service of God knows what. By the end, you’re thoroughly alienated by the tone and the laziness with which it’s employed.

Stranger than Fiction was pretty thin itself, but it was at least invested in its characters and had a point (however feeble) to give it a modicum of purpose. But you can’t imagine what led Warmerdam to go through the motions of making something in which he clearly had zero interest. It’s a make-work project without a shred of wit or an ounce of heart, and you mostly resent it until it stops 98 minutes later. (Seville)