Another Round

Director Thomas Vinterberg is probably best known for co-founding the Dogme 95 movement, along with fellow Dane and agent provocateur, Lars Von Trier. Vinterberg’s debut feature, Festen (The Celebration), was a deliciously dark comedy, but since that film he’s generally played it a lot safer than his aforementioned compatriot. I had hoped that Another Round, a film wherein four teachers indulge an obscure psychological theory that a maintained elevation of one’s blood alcohol level would provide numerous benefits to one’s standard of living, might see him push the envelope once more.

In a year so challenging it might just push the strictest teetotalers to drink, we’ve already seen one prominent example of what a dedicated diet of booze can do for a man in the Ben Affleck vehicle, The Way Back. In that film, alcohol was the source of many a woe, with Affleck’s steady pounding of the tins leading to a downward spiral courtesy of his erratic and dysfunctional behaviour emblematic of a career dipsomaniac. Another Round aims to offer a completely different proposition. We join Mads Mikkelsen’s stone-cold sober school teacher, Martin, at a personal and professional rock bottom. His is a lifeless, loveless existence, his passion quietly drained over the years, leaving a brittle shell of the teacher, husband and man he once was. His close group of friends believe they have the solution, and it involves maintaining an almost constant blood alcohol level of at least 0.5%. Ben Affleck’s basketball coach should’ve been so lucky.

This set-up provides the stage for a series of escalating hijinks that occur as the group’s experimentation with a variety of different intoxicants gets more brazen. For a significant portion of its runtime, it’s this drunken comedy that drives the film forward. We’ve all had a good laugh at the expense of our inebriated mates, and Another Round provides ample opportunity to do much the same as Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe stumble through their day to day under the influence. In this respect, it has more in common with Broken Lizard’s Beerfest than it does Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly, and this is at the core of my main issues with the film. 

Content-wise, very little separates Another Round from the juvenile frat-house antics of many an American teen movie. It’s certainly less risqué than most, with (slightly) less toilet humour, but otherwise, it plays out almost beat-for-beat like what you’d expect from a late-90s concept comedy, not the work of a man partly responsible for a manifesto that set the film-making world alight around this same time. For this reason, I found myself somewhat disappointed in the film. Vinterberg has proven capable of balancing irreverent, even irresponsible, comedy with appropriate gravitas before, but doesn’t see the same success here. It’s a care-free drunken jaunt one minute and a sober cautionary tale the next, and the transition from one to the other is about as subtle as the hammering of a morning-after headache from a binge-session the night before.

It’s not an unmanageable affliction though, as, in total, Vinterberg and company serve up some fond memories you’ll hold onto after the hangover fades. Mikkelsen, in particular, is in stellar form, his performance providing an emotional base for the audience to gravitate around, and Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s close-quarters cinematography provides further invitation into the intimate inner-circle of the characters whilst effectively evoking the cheery, hazy headiness of a seedy Sunday session. These notes make it tempting to completely forgive the film’s dramatic shortcomings, but whilst there is undoubtedly a fair amount of enjoyment to be had with Another Round, I found it to be all shot with no chaser.

C+

Adelaide Film Festival C+ Review

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