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A big piece of development news landed with a resounding "Huh?" this week: Leonardo DiCaprio is planning to star in a remake of Another Round, the Danish film that won the Oscar for Best International Film on Sunday. Fans of the original were quickly up in arms on social media after the news broke, wondering why Hollywood would undertake such a thing.
The answer, of course, is Hollywood, which has a long and spotty history of remaking international films. There's certainly a convincing argument to be made that doing so represents a certain kind of American elitism and ignorance, and can encourage a xenophobic attitude toward world cinema, particularly when the film in question is from a non-white country. The decision to remake an international film can seem to say, "Your movie is good, but let's do it over again, in English, so Americans can enjoy it too."
To be clear, I think the world would be a much better place if everyone would watch as many international films as possible. To be clearer, Another Round is great and very entertaining, and you should watch it immediately. (It's streaming on Hulu.) However, I don't think we should dismiss the idea of a DiCaprio-led remake out of hand. There are plenty of ways such a movie could go wrong, of course, but if the potential pitfalls are avoided — which will probably be no easy task — it could very well be good, even great.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images; Samuel Goldwyn Films
The more you think about it, Another Round and DiCaprio are a promising combination of actor and material. The original film follows a group of middle-aged friends who decide to maintain a certain level of drunkenness, to see how it affects their lives — and also to spice up the boredom of their midlife crises. Mads Mikkelsen is astounding in the role of Martin (whose equivalent DiCaprio would presumably play), a history teacher who rediscovers his joie de vivre by embracing the looseness and confidence drinking gives him.
I don't think it's a coincidence that DiCaprio's two finest performances to date — as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street and Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — both involve him playing various levels of intoxication. Leo is often at his best in roles that not just allow but demand him to cut loose, to lose control. (See also Django Unchained and Catch Me If You Can, in which Frank Abagnale's quick-thinking con artistry steadily drops to reveal naked emotional desperation.) A remake of Another Round would be a prime showcase for this, allowing DiCaprio to shade that loss of control with a very different emotional register than any of those films provided. Also, even if there's nothing on the level of Wolf's infamous Quaaludes sequence, there would still be plentiful opportunities for him to show off his still-underused gift for physical comedy.
An American remake would also offer an intriguing chance for a different perspective on Another Round's central social experiment. This is where things get dangerous: The easiest trap an American remake can fall into is overt moralizing, something the Danish film determinedly avoids. "The original idea was to make a celebration of alcohol. But I found it too provocative and too hurtful to all those people who have lost family members to alcohol," writer-director Thomas Vinterberg told EW. "I felt an obligation, actually, to tell the whole story about alcohol, and I also found it more interesting and more truthful to try to convey both." Or as Mikkelsen put it: "Is it bad? Or is it good? And the answer is 'Yes.'"
While moral ambiguity and complex truths aren't exactly qualities we've come to expect from Hollywood films, our American attitude and culture around alcohol provides a compelling framework to hang an Another Round remake on. Our love-hate relationship with booze, far more extreme than Europe's, is fertile ground for a complicated portrait of how alcohol affects our lives, one that could arrive at a similarly ambiguous conclusion. Imagine a scene of DiCaprio teaching his students about why the U.S. drinking age is 21, or drinking with them at an illicit high school party. There's potential here.
Of course, who's to say whether this project will even get made, or whether DiCaprio will remain attached. But for now, it remains an intriguing possibility. And regardless of its ultimate quality, and whether it comes to fruition or not, the original Another Round will still be there, waiting for new viewers to discover it, and hopefully to use it as a gateway to the wide world of international film.