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‘My Wonderful Wanda’ review: Swiss dramedy takes on the upper class

Haves and have nots.

My Wonderful Wanda is Swiss movie that deals with a favorite theme of European films. Wanda is a Polish caretaker who leaves home to take care of Josef who is paralyzed following a stroke. He is the patriarch of the affluent Wegmaister-Gloor family. His wife Elsa is not comfortable with the bond that Wanda and Josef have. Things become worse when Wanda reveals she is pregnant.

A film about the “haves” and the “have nots” can seemingly only go in one of two directions. It is either a satire filled with biting commentary or it is a serious story – filled with biting commentary. My Wonderful Wanda is interesting in that it tries to have it both ways. Predictably, this is met with mixed results. There is a charm to the proceedings, but it does not connect with the audience as well as it should.

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My Wonderful Wanda has a large cast which are used to perfection. Characters have a tendency to slide into archetypes, but they still bring tension to the situation. There are plenty of themes including perceptions of class, identity wrapped around motherhood, and culture clashes. Nothing is ever over the top and the plot manages to bring nuance not always seen in these types of films.

Still, there is a constant feeling that the tone of the movie is off. Many times, it seems like it wants to play things for laughs, but it is acted in a straightforward manner. It is as if the film does not know what it wants to be. In turn, it ruins the immersion of My Wonderful Wanda since audiences are left asking what a scene is supposed to mean.

The film comes off as indecisive as it switches between comedy, drama, and even horror. It is clear that director Bettina Oberli is making a statement about class and nationalism, but the constant tonal changes end up hampering the effect. There are some good moments, but My Wonderful Wanda lacks consistency. The ending does a nice job of trying to tie everything together, however.

Ultimately, the final act of My Wonderful Wanda will determine how much a person enjoys the movie. Everything builds to a finale that in some ways explains the earlier moments. The themes touched are cross cultural and there are some fine performances. The question becomes, is it too late?

My Wonderful Wanda opens in select theaters April 23

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