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Romantic comedy that mixes magical realism with traditional Australian urban-outback contrasts. The plot centers on a bored woman (the eponymous Wendy) who conjures up the perfect lover, Jake, while her husband is out on the road suffering comical mishaps. Written by
Popular romance novels, in addition to American Westerns and private eye tales, are common fodder for millions of undemanding readers who are never strained by their favourites as they can simply open a book to any page and immediately be upon familiar territory. Each of these genres is suitable for effective cinematic pastiche, and successful comedic examples of films in these classifications are not difficult to locate, but this Australian effort is certainly not one. Wendie Walters (Rosanna Arquette) occupies a great deal of her time by reading romance novels, the origin of her fascination with this froth not surprisingly being an uninteresting marriage, in her case one of ten years to Ronnie (Bruce Spence), a route salesman for a cut-rate confectionery. Her dreary existence is normally only enlivened by fantasies born of her reading, but since her tenth wedding anniversary is only a day away, she has planned something more realistic, a lavish meal for her and Ronnie to be held in their small flat, a candlelit feast that she worries may be more meaningful to her than to her spouse. Indeed, apparently this is the fact, for Ronnie does not show up for the dinner, does not even come home at all, although a viewer knows the reason as we watch him driving through the Outback, following his sales route and suffering through a spate of vehicular mishaps that include overheating, a tire puncture, and a lightning strike that deposits a large tree limb in the path of his delivery van, thereby stranding him in Lizard Gully, population 2 (a crafty woman with her grown, and quite dim, son). Sadly, Wendie knows nought of Ronnie's difficulties because his telephone calls have been intercepted by a jealous adversary of hers at their work office and, smarting from disappointment brought by her wasted anniversary celebratory attempt, she begins to believe that Ronnie is consorting with a "floozie", this serving only to strengthen the fantasy laden fabric of her generally banal existence. This she does, largely by creating an ideal man in her mind with whom she may, without reserve, fall in love, named "Jake" or "Randy" (Hugo Weaving), a mind made conceptualized swain who, in actuality, may exist, since Wendie's co-workers have spotted him driving her about in his European convertible. This latter quartet of office girls is serving after a fashion of a Greek Chorus in support of her remarkable affair with Jake/Randy, since they are generally on scene, although one of them, Deidre (Kerry Walker - who wins the acting laurels here), discovers that Wendie has embezzled a thousand dollars from her employer's till to finance her escapist, and very well mounted, affair. Meanwhile, back in Lizard Gully Ronnie, after being driven to shelter in an abandoned shack by a storm, recognizes that the decrepit building was once a small café and, tired of his dead-end job, he remains there, completely refurbishing the restaurant, now named "Wendie's", fulfilling his own fantasy of him and his wife having a fresh beginning, inspired by memories from their past shared hopes and idealistic plans. When Ronnie finally returns to reclaim Wendie, he discovers a goodly amount of evidence that she has been dallying with another in his absence, but remains true to his design and drags her back to Lizard Gully to the restaurant that he has restored for them. There is true professionalism to be found in the making of this foolish film, with top-flight designing, costumes, camera-work and sound processing; unfortunately, whatever may have been the work's original concept is lost, the scenario forming a barrier to any interest in a viewer stemming from continual shortcomings in logic and continuity. This is yet another in a series of fey characterizations from the generally monochromatic Arquette, but she is ably joined here by a solid supporting cast and the two other principal players, all of whom do what they can with a script that is barely worth the effort. Are Wendie's fantasies based upon actual incidents?...or are they simply created whole cloth and pulled from her imagination? Unhappily, the screenplay wavers throughout upon these matters until, after silly surrealism and physical comedy have become prominent, a viewer merely wishes to go on to other things.
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