Rebecca Frith - News Poster


Film review: 'Love Serenade'

Australia, that land of cinematic wacky oddballs, gives us yet another absurdist comedy in Shirley Barrett's debut feature, winner of the Camera d'Or at Cannes and recently showcased at the 14th Miami Film Festival. This bizarre comedy about a romantic triangle between two love-starved sisters and the object of their affections, who may or may not be a fish, has a genuine charm and an anarchic humor that is all the more effective for the deadpan nature of its presentation. "Love Serenade" is at times very, very funny, although its slow rhythms may prevent it from breaking out of the art houses. Miramax is releasing domestically.

The film is set in the town of Sunray, a desolate burg where the local Chinese restaurant is forever empty. The sole inhabitants of the town seem to be Vicky-Ann (Rebecca Frith), who works at the beauty parlor, and her emotionally repressed younger sister, Dimity (Miranda Otto). Dimity waits tables at the aforementioned restaurant, whose cook has a propensity for nudism.

The sisters are delighted when they discover that a celebrity has moved to town: Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov), a DJ who made a name for himself in Brisbane and who is now spinning '70s-era discs at the dilapidated local radio station. The desperate Vicky-Ann is wildly excited at the prospect of snaring the laid-back Sherry and shows up at his door bearing the gift of a very large fish. He's resistant to all her efforts, but when Dimity tries a more direct approach and simply takes her clothes off, he's more than willing to relieve her of her virginity. The resulting complications (Sherry eventually takes up with Vicky-Ann as well) eventually find the randy DJ receiving an unexpectedly dramatic comeuppance.

Director-screenwriter Barrett has a distinctly original comic sensibility and displays a real expertise in her dialogue and characterizations and in the film's wide-screen visual compositions, which often provide their own witty, deadpan comic touches. This is the kind of film when you never exactly know what is going to happen next or what unexpected dimension the characters will reveal -- and the revelations are enormously fun.

On the other hand, there is too much of an effort toward the fanciful, and the entire subplot about Sherry possibly being of another species seems overdone and pointless.

The director has garnered expert comic performances from the three leads. Shevtsov, barely changing his facial expressions and delivering all his dialogue in the same slightly bored monotone, is a delight as the cynical DJ and manages to make his character utterly endearing in his sleaziness. Frith, working at an opposite, hysterical pitch, is a perfect counterpoint. But it is the young Otto who steals the film. Her Dimity is a marvelous comic creation, containing an ever-surprising combination of naivete and guile, and her wordless comic reactions generate howls from the audience.

Another bountiful source of humor in the film is the perfectly selected soundtrack of '70s-era oldies, including numerous heavy-breathing seductive classics by Barry White.



Director-screenwriter Shirley Barrett

Producer Jan Chapman

Director of photography Mandy Walker

Film editor Denise Haratzis



Dimity Hurley Miranda Otto

Vicky-Ann Hurley Rebecca Frith

Ken Sherry George Shevtsov

Albert Lee John Alansu

Running time -- 100 minutes

No MPAA rating

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