Another Round

Another Round ★★★

Vinterburg’s new film, another edgy drama featuring a daring, inward-looking performance from Mads Mikkelsen, is a pretty good mid-life crisis turned party turned crisis turned party again. The oddity of Vinterburg’s drama, however, is that ANOTHER ROUND is like an unfocused high-school essay that argues both the pros and cons of its topic. The result is an overall pointless (not in the rudest sense of the word, but in the most literal—without a specific point) piece of work, which I struggled with as a viewer when it was all said and done. It’s a disappointing feeling to be left with, too, given that there’s plenty of quality content.

Mikkelsen and three of his buddies (all teachers) decide to day-drink through the week in an effort to hit the blood-alcohol level that best heightens their social skills and overall energies. The notion is relatively scientific as they are testing a documented theory about buzz-creasing their efficiency and happiness. They check in with a wor-processor periodically to document results and tweak their hypothesis.

It’s interesting to see the film legitimately argue in favour of maintaining levels of slight intoxication. Mikkelsen and his mates experience some level of success with sipping back liquid courage through their work days. They connect with their students better, they seem happier. However, the film only ever seems to have one direction in which it could go, and so it does. i.e. alcoholism and addiction are bedfellows with this toxic experiment. Intimately, some of these men are just unable to balance home, work, and booze, and results go poorly.

The buzzed and fun-drunken scenes are breezey & interesting. They even sort of convince one that the notion of fueling one’s professional career with a wee bit of liquor isn’t totally crazy. But Ooo-wee, those ugly-drunk and hangover scenes are messy—especially as their science project wreaks havoc on their work and family lives.

I suppose taking a stance, one way or the other for the movie’s message (either (1) that some booze is ok—beneficial, even—or (2) alcohol is dangerous with tragedy imminent) leads the film down one narrow potentially cliched path or another. The film devotedly follows this experiment. Despite good performances, the men are never really well fleshed out characters. It’s just not a character study and perhaps it should be. Anyway, this social-hypothesis of a movie ultimately is a somewhat fresh experience. Unfortunately, we’re left with a film that doesn’t really say anything, except that alcohol is out there as part of the culture. Everyone from teens to world leaders get silly. As true as that may be, and even though alcohol may not be the devil that some may suggest, the film awkwardly flouts consequences or responsibility. I know it’s just a movie, and Vinterberg isn’t making a public service announcement, but there’s an element of ‘everything’s just fine’ which rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because it conflicts my morals, but I don’t think so. It’s not about my agreeing. There’s a freedom in Mikkelsen’s behaviour in the final scene that is false. ANOTHER ROUND doesn’t feel as if it ends properly. (SPOILER **** there’s a scene where one of the teachers encourages a teen student to drink prior to taking a test. The scene is disconnected from anything else except for raising certain ethical questions about the character and arguing in favour of alcohol consumption *** END SPOILER). Other events of varying degrees of terrible befall our characters, but the men seem to dismiss it all.

I’ve been stuck trying to articulate how ANOTHER ROUND’s ending makes me feel ‘not right’. It dismisses bad things that happens and doesn’t deal the characters any consequences. The film’s a science project, but never reflects on any lessons learned. Without saying much, drinking distracts the men in the final scene, and the film itself seems to veer from a reasonable conclusion. The more I consider it though, that’s probably Vinterberg’s whole point. What is a better cautionary tale of alcoholism than the inability to deal with the serious issues without drinking first?

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