Victor is having an argument with a wife who isn’t at home. What’s with this? Where’s that?
It takes him a couple of minutes to see the half-empty shelves and closets. It takes him a minute more to see the note.
“When I’m back from work, I want you out of here.“
He calls his agent, who is of little help. Get a hotel room. He rings up his adult son, and catches him in the middle of the same predicament. Amisha — whom Victor hasn’t met, whom son Zach has been living with for months, whose name Victor can’t get right to save his life, is tossing the lad out the very same day.
Zach (Tim Linde) is gutted. Victor, (Leopold Witte), a best-selling mystery writer, is resigned, bemused and “Well, I’ve got a new publisher and book signing in Scotland.” Zach is crushed, coddled and lacking in confidence in ways only a guy whose girlfriend calls him a “wimp” can be. Better come with me, kiddo.
“Waterboys” is an adorable, tetchy Danish comedy about belated parenting, the arrested development and pathological “bullsh—–g” that is a writer’s MO and trying to find your feet again amongst a cheap, cranky people who aren’t into whining — the Scots.
Dutch writer-director Robert Jan Westdijk (“The Dinner Club”) piles cute characters and culture clashing on top of heartbreak, guilt and loss for a warm comedy that hits you in unexpected ways.
There’s the shock Zach experiences at seeing that his mother has moved everything his father owns into the garage, and the pain of having him help with the move out, only to have highly-strung Amisha go all fangirl and flirty on his Dad, right in front of him.
“Would you sign my book?”
Victor is incorrigible and self-absorbed enough to let that roll off his back. Grab that cello and a bag and shove’em into the Saab and let’s roll.
Because Zach is A) lost, B) like Victor, not getting through to his mother and C) still afraid of flying. The fact that he wears his bow arm in a cast is his mother’s solution for carpel tunnel he’s picked up playing his instrument. The fact that he doesn’t drive is because he’s just a little bit timid and withdrawn from the world.
A running gag — Dad’s constantly giving him bad advice on how to approach his Amisha problem. Zach desperately wants her back, and Victor knows how that looks and that pleading will never work. A little “tough love,” maybe cussing her out by text message on Zach’s phone?
Another running gag, Dad’s undying love for “The Waterboys,” a Scottish band that he and his about-to-be-ex-wife saw in concert. By coincidence, they’re doing a “homecoming show” in Edinburgh when they arrive in the city to meet Victor’s new Scottish publisher and do a few media events and public readings.
Pity it’s sold out. Pity that asking the PR lady (Helen Belbin) to look into that gets little more than a laugh. Rhona’s the sister of the publisher, brusque and not the least bit star struck. She insults Victor, his books and his inability to follow instructions, right in front of the kid.
All Dad’s charm, his spoiled impulsiveness, the way he flirts on the kid’s behalf with the cute hotel maid (Julie McLellan), that doesn’t work on Rhona. No drive home after a dinner meeting, either. Here’s change for two bus tickets. SEE ya.
Westdijk finds laughs in throwing Victor’s hedonism into the insular macho gloom of Scotland. Salmon fishing, since your detective hero (17 novels worth) is an accomplished angler? SURE, Victor knows all about it. Cough cough.
Witte, who has been a mainstay of Dutch TV since the ’80s, throws himself into Victor’s exaggerated sense of self with the confidence of blithe ignorance. He wants to “research smuggling,” so he hides cocaine in the kid’s cello case on the car ferry over to Britain. He corrects everybody’s grammar, makes up stories to try and score Waterboys tickets and does everything he can to pretend this break-up hasn’t hit him.
Did his wife have a “reason” for kicking him out?
“No more than usual,” he says (in Dutch with English subtitles). “It was my STUFF she threw out, not me!”
But she’s left him a letter in an envelope, “In case you want to know ‘why.'” He won’t open it.
Linde’s job is to make Zach less pathetic and whipped than he seems, which he does by bouncing off his irritating father — sometimes literally.
Through them, and a sparkling supporting cast, Westdijk gives us a little bickering, a little bonding, a little personal growth, a bit of Scotland and a lot of “Waterboys.” And if that’s not enough to add up to a comic winner, I don’t know what is.
MPA Rating: unrated, sexual and, drug content, profanity
Cast: Leopold Witte, Tim Linde, Helen Belbin and Julie McLellan
Credits: Scripted and directed by Robert Jan Westdijk. A Film Movement release.
Running time: 1:33