A elderly, eccentric aristocratic woman rattles around her homes in California, glass of wine in hand, accompanied only by the loyal servant she imperiously calls Doofus and belittles at every turn.
But when a neighbor leverages a complaint against her that summons her to court, she’s beset by so-called friends, enemies and families after her crumbling fortune. Her cynicism prepares her to face her enemies, but she doesn’t quite see the real threat emerging from the shadows.
Written and directed by Matteo Mosterts, this dark comedy combines fading visual grandeur with smartly stylish writing to achieve an arch, witty tone. It’s not unlike if Wes Anderson grew up in Southern California watching Dynasty. “Wally’s Will” as the same dry, almost deadpan tone that is perfectly suited to a story about the rich and the damned, but transplanted to the West Coast.
The film is anchored by a confident performance by Linda Gray, who starred as beleaguered wife Sue Ellen on legendary evening soap opera Dallas. Here, she plays the dotty, canny grande dame Wally with a innate elegance that sits over a layer of loneliness and despair.
The performance has a brittle wit, balancing the dark comedic demands of the writing with a genuine sense of pathos. It teeters on the edge of broad satire but never loses its balance, retaining an essential humanity that makes Wally a more subtle and human character than may initially appear on the surface.
That vulnerability makes Wally all the more alone, surrounded by a solidly realized world of Californian privilege and wealth. The settings and production design all speak to Wally’s milieu, and once again balances stylization with a sense of realism.
There’s also a warm, golden yet murky quality to the visuals that hint at both the world’s decrepitness and its once gleaming opulence. A stylized, diorama-like quality reflects the artificiality of Wally’s world, one that, in the end, leaves her despondent at just how alone she is — and therefore vulnerable to the unlikeliest conspiracies.
“Wally’s World” is a dark comic romp, told with self-assured insouciance, whether it’s in the brisk pacing of the storytelling or the mannered performances of the cast. Though there are undertones of tragedy and doom, the jazz-like rhythms keep the film buoyant and fizzy with cleverness, and set the film up with a delightful bite to its ending, adding to an piquante twist to this strong cocktail of a short.