Another Round articulates midlife crisis while retaining some emotional ambiguity

By: Steve Pulaski

Playing catch-up on some Oscar-nominated films in time for the Academy Awards on April 25th.

You take the first drink. The second drink takes itself. Three is never enough. Anyone who has ever spiked their morning coffee with Bailey’s or ordered another drink after closing their tab will tell you that. Takes one to know one on the latter point also.

Another Round is the umpteenth take on male midlife crisis, though it feels fresher. Its themes are underwritten, but there’s a jubilant energy present. An ambiguous ending also helps it find comfortable footing after a third act that gets a touch too predictable. Let it be known, however, there’s enough heart in the performances to smooth out most of these issues. Simply put, you won’t go wrong pressing play on this one.

Director/co-writer Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm introduce us to a quartet of Copenhagen teachers all going through a midlife crisis. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is in the deepest rut as he’s lost his passion for teaching his history class and is growing evermore distant from his family. One night out with his colleagues (Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, and Lars Ranthe), they get to talking about the teachings of psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who theorized that maintaining a blood alcohol content of 0.05 makes you more creative as a thinker and more relaxed as a person. Skårderud cheekily added that humans were born with a BAC 0.05 too low.

The men figure they have nothing to lose by testing the theory. The fact that they commit to writing about their experiences in order to give the experiment validity is hilarious in its own right. Slowly, they begin finding themselves once again. A music teacher goes from passively coaching his students to encouraging them to find their souls in the melodies they sing. A philosophy teacher becomes more observant of his students. A soccer coach, however, starts to overdo it, and the group makes the dangerous decision to up their BAC to 0.10. Then some absinthe enters the picture and it’s all downhill from there.

Mikkelsen’s endearing performance ties the entire film together. He’s the kind of actor that livens up the screen by his very presence, and he consistently strikes empathetic chords by being in-touch with his character. Also aiding Another Round is a degree of emotional ambiguity, strengthened greatly by its celebratory yet hazy ending where a dance-party breaks out quite literally on the edge of a pier. It’s a dangerous game to respond to the losing of oneself with sustained binge-drinking. Alcohol doesn’t make quiet people loud nor happy people angry so much as it reveals your truer self. Initially, the men realize a happy buzz is relatively harmless. It’s when they opt for a second pint — or another round, so to speak — where things go awry.

Another Round‘s beats are mostly to be expected, but the dramatic turn of the third act is kept interesting as the four men do some of the best acting during that time. Larsen, Millang, and Ranthe are all effective in their respective roles, and Vinterberg is reluctant to tie things up too cleanly. This is a mighty fine drama all around. Oscar-worthy may be a stretch, but far me it to condemn a good movie for not being great.

NOTE: Another Round is currently streaming on Hulu.

Grade: B

[embedyt] [/embedyt]