Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz), an ambitious social climber, marries a wealthy widow in Washington D.C. in order to mix with powerful political players.
For his directorial debut Christop Waltz takes on an intriguing true story that finds in the role of Ulrich Mott, a duplicitious con-man who worms his way into respected Washington, D.C., journalist Elsa Breht’s (Vanessa Redgrave) life to tragic results. Taking advantange of her while emotionally vulnerable, the charlatan convinces her to marry him, much to the consternation of her daughter Amanda (Annette Bening). That there is a 44 year gap in the age of the couple raises quite a few eyebrows, but it doesn’t stop Mott from weaseling himself into the realm of the Beltway’s movers and shakers, thanks to his wife’s influence and his own charm. All seems well, if not a bit odd, until…Elsa is found dead in their home and Mott is arrested for her murder.
As written by David Auburn, the film presents the initial circumstances surrounding the night of the murder, then employs a series of flashbacks that reveal Mott’s past – one built on lies and a pyramid scheme of influence – as well as the arc of the ill-fated marriage. It’s intriguing stuff, especially when we witness Mott’s unexpected rise in government circles juxtaposed with the unvarnished truth about the crook. Waltz has provided himself with a role tailored made to his strengths, while Redgrave is still able to bring her particular brand of fire to the screen, whereas Bening is wasted in an underwritten role. Still and all, it’s a fascinating tale that will likely have you searching for more details regarding this tragic affair.