Christoph Waltz has been an actor that I’ve often really responded to…or at least one that has a few performances that I remember so fondly that I think of him as being great. However, it should be noted that two of those performances come under the direction of Quentin Tarantino – so perhaps it’s a case of selective memory. Regardless, Waltz decided to step into the role of director and lead actor in the film Georgetown (2019), and it was a very disappointing vanity project.
Georgetown was a big let down
Ulrich Mott (Waltz) has ambitions of climbing the social and political ladders in Washington D.C. A major leap forward in that very goal occurs after Ulrich marries Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave), a successful journalist who has recently become widowed. Her daughter, Amanda (Annette Bening), doesn’t trust Ulrich – but Elsa enjoys his ambition and youth, and marries him anyway.
There are several challenges to recapping this film. In fact, the film struggles at times to make it clear to the audience when we are watching what. It opens at a dinner that Ulrich is hosting to celebrate some random achievement. Essentially, it is a bunch of snobby DC elites talking about how great Ulrich is, as he pompously walks around serving his guests and feigning humbleness. It becomes immediately clear that Amanda hates this guy, and Elsa looks down on him slightly as well when she tells him to “fetch the soup.” After the party, Elsa ends up dead, while Ulrich is out for a smoke during his walk. Ulrich proclaims that he will find the killer to a grieving Amanda, who initially assumed her 92-year-old mother had died of natural causes.
The film then jumps into a series of flashbacks and procedural elements. None of these scenes will make you like Ulrich, nor the movie that you’re currently suffering through. Each scene serves simply to allow Waltz to showcase his “talent.” It is his usual schtick – and if that works for you, then maybe you’ll be won over by this film. If not, then you will likely feel like I did: done. I was done pretty much from the moment he declared Elsa’s death a murder. It only becomes more ridiculous as the film moves on, and you see how full of crap Ulrich is…and it just feels like Waltz is telling us “so am I”. Maybe it’s a commentary on acting, but it just feels like an actor who was tired of being typecast and decided to direct a prestige film.
Georgetown didn’t work for me at all, and I kind of wish I’d not fallen for the trap. I feel like I could have probably seen a stronger film at Tribeca instead of this one. Usually, I’m pretty much clear on what rating I would give a film, but this one has me torn between Not a Total Waste of Time or Avoid Like the Plague (mostly because of the criminal underuse of Benning). Instead, I’m giving an honorary rating of Trashfire because this film felt like Waltz threw everything into a giant dumpster, lit it on fire, and took a few steps back while raising his hands into the air whilst proclaiming, “Now that’s art!”