'Two-Bit Waltz' stumbles, but with charm

Clara Mamet, daughter of David, charms even as she stumbles in her writing-directing debut, 'Two-Bit Waltz'

The fractured family indie comedy-drama "Two-Bit Waltz" is the feature writing-directing debut of Clara Mamet, and as a daughter of David, she shows a certain linguistic tutelage: pointed dialogue, tart humor, the artfully placed profanity. The bigger influence, though, is Wes Anderson, specifically "The Royal Tenenbaums" and its portrait of a preciously eccentric family.

Here, the filmmaker plays Maude, a chain-smoking, smartass First World ball of adolescent anxiety and crippling intelligence who will inherit millions from her deceased grandmother if she'll only go to college. (Yes, there's a certain Bud Cort-starring Hal Ashby film on Mamet's sleeve too.) This prospect sounds perfectly awful to Maude — she has a novel to write! — but would please to no end her self-centered mother (real-life mom Rebecca Pidgeon).

The movie is coldly embroidered quirk, more about the director's own thrall of childhood things than her character's desperate clinging to immaturity. And yet "Two-Bit Waltz" is watchably imitative, arch nonsense. It has committed performances — including a deadpan turn on the edges by William H. Macy as the dad who's only seen reading books — and the occasional, provocatively funny line of dialogue.

Dysfunctional clans fairly litter the indie-verse these days, but there's a strange charm in this young Mamet pretending it's original.

"Two-Bit Waltz."

MPAA rating: R for language, sexual reference.

Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.

Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

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