Love Serenade (1996)
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However if you grew up having picnics in windswept Rotary parks, riding about dusty streets and choosing between the ABC and one other channel, this is definitely worth a look. Miranda Otto as Dimity is solid enough, but the character of Ken Sherry makes the film - a reptilian, tai chi following, Hawaiian shirt wearing DJ that will make you cringe with laughter throughout.
The title "Love Serenade' may have done some damage to its success as it could to easily have pigeoned holed it as a emotion saturated "chick flick". Ironically, once you know the film the title is perfect.
Essentially the film seems to be about the seductive power of persona fueled by the material mediums associated with it, in this case it's a 40 something DJ and his melodic 70's playlist. Within this entrapment all is normal and comfortable with the victim, but for the observer, in this case us the viewer, there are alarm bells and sirens going off everywhere.
DJ Ken Sherry represents what the mass media machine eventually spits out, burnt out celebrity that have been superseded by a new stock. To unfashionable to be seriously employed and to active to be retired these cast offs gravitate to anywhere that still attaches notions of greatness to there foundering media statue. George Shevtsov slips into the roll of the sleazy veteran DJ like a duck to water. His astonishing performance manages to contrive a personality that can only be described as revoltingly charming. Drawing on a a wealth of DJ streetwise experience "Ken Sherry" has an an opportunistic toy about with the misguided adoration of two local sisters. The resulting personality confrontations and moral diversities therein carries the film to its daring strange then stranger end.
Brilliantly written and directed by Shirley Barrett 'Love Serenade' is a great example of one persons vision being crafted and produced by a competent team that have taken on a singular vision. Its curious "fish" diversions and irratic surreal moments will have a large audience drop off, leaving a faithful few that will love it forever.
It's very realistic for anyone who has lived in a REALLY small town before ...
The Aussie "Bush" never looked so good. My favourite shot - the wedding dress run across those wide, open grain fields.
Clever direction tells you things without the clumsiness of deliberate speech e.g. keep a look out for the wheelchair in the lounge of the sisters' house, it's one of the few clues you get to their former family life.
Wonderful performances, music etc etc. An Aussie Classic.
The two sisters live in such a tragic backwater that when a has-been DJ comes to live in their town, they don't even realize what a loser he is.
They are so desperate for a social life they both go after him, and the results are funny (and the ending unexpected.)
If you don't appreciate the typically dry sense of humor of the Brits and Australians, you probably won't enjoy it, but if you do, it's a bit of a gem.
Two dorky, love-starved sisters live together in a house in the Aussie backwater town of Sunray. Their lives are thrown into a dither when a hotshot radio DJ moves into the house next door. The DJ, named Ken Sherry, has the personality of a lugubrious bloodhound and is thrice divorced, but the sisters are smitten. He's a celebrity!
One of the sisters, Vicki, is a hairdresser with delusions of tabloid grandeur, and the other, Dimity, is a painfully shy waitress in a forlorn Chinese restaurant with the absurdly grand name Emperor's Palace. The restaurant owner is, on his off hours, a proud nudist (Did I mention this movie is weird?).
When you begin watching, you may think you know where this flick is headed. You don't. Things get stranger and stranger and casual American audiences, seeing familiar sitcom elements unfold, will likely be stunned by the bizarre directions the movie takes.
For those looking for "something else," I cannot recommend this highly enough. Oh, and a terrific Barry White soundtrack.
"Love Serenade" is a calm, quiet mini-masterpiece in Super Slo-Mo from Down Under by Shirley Barrett, in her first-ever attempt at a full-length theatrical movie. As writer-director, she has crafted a film that is best appreciated by true aficionados of the art form.
The story, in miniature. Ken Sherry is a shopworn, middle-aged Aussie DJ in Brisbane. Having tired of the big city and just coming off his third divorce, he heads for south Australia and the sleepy little burg of Sunray, there to begin life anew. Unwittingly, he moves in next door to the two love-starved Hurley sisters, neither of whom, unfortunately for Ken, is named Elizabeth. Most of the story has to do with the two sisters battling for the attention and affection of the new arrival, plus his reaction to said battle and how he takes advantage of their duo-longing for him.
The actor/actresses portraying the film's three main protagonists are uniformly outstanding in their roles. As Ken, George Shevtsov is so laid back, you wonder how he manages to stay awake. Even during sex! As the prototypical male lothario, he is able to stay plenty enough awake, however, to take full advantage of the two sisters'.....ahem....."favors." Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith) makes no secret of her desire to land this man at all costs. The town of Sunray, obviously, must REALLY be hurting for available decent men to evoke such desperation in a woman.
But it is Miranda Otto as the younger sister who almost steals the movie from her two co-stars. As the apropos-named Dimity ("Dimwitty" would have been even better), she operates on low-wattage brainpower and just can't get a clue about the game of love. However, it is she who, in a one-time display of intelligentsia, provides the movie's near-shocking twist and climax.
The movie and story are much enhanced by a soundtrack comprised, in great part, by Barry White love songs from the 1970s, as well as some other songs of that like from the same era. This "love soundtrack" adds just the right theme to the two sisters looking for love in all the wrong places (translation: Ken's house).
For anyone interested in an Aussie take on how three different characters might attempt to play the game of love in Super Slo-Mo, this quirky black comedy is for you. All others, stay away. Your next knuckle-bruiser awaits.
Love Serenade is a fantastically quirky, original and funny tale of the relationship between two sisters and the sexual awakening of a sheltered young woman.
The cast is brilliant; Rebecca Firth as unforgettable Vicky-Anne, with some of the funniest lines in the film; Ken sherry, played to perfection by George Shevtsov and John Alansu as the obscure restaurant owner Albert, is bound to raise a dry smile.
However, it's Miranda Otto's wonderful performance as Dimity that clearly takes the spotlight.
This story is relatable not only for it's familiar plot, but also for it's use of dead-pan comedy. The setting of the small Murray side town of Sunray helps with this, almost mocking the characters with it's starkness.
If you're looking for something original, you can't go past Love Serenade.
First, what this movie is NOT about: 1) it is not about "how to catch men" 2) it is not a fishing movie. OK, enough of that. This review explores what I learned from the movie and what I perceive to be its message--so be warned.
I just saw this movie on video last night. The title makes it sound like a so-called "chick-flick." True enough, the movie is not for the "emotionally challenged." Most of the action is subtle in the sense that if you don't understand the "language of emotions" you may think it the most boring--and confusing--movie ever made. There is very little conventional movie action. There are very few people in the cast. There is almost nothing happening in the town where it is set. The action is almost all in the world of ideas, feelings, and perceptions. However, the movie is not a soppy, exploitive "feeling fest." From my (male) point of view, it is a targeted message: "there is a line." In discussing the movie with women, I am finding, they all agree: "there is a line." What am I talking about? This movie convinces you "there is a line" beyond which freedom becomes chaos. Most people suspect this in their gut. This movie lays it out for all to see.
SPOILER ... Vicky-Ann and Dimity (was that for 'a little dim-witted'?) are sisters in a small town of rather low economic means. Ken Sherry, a radio DJ they are familiar with, moves to their small town, living next door. Vicky-Ann tells Dimity she will target him as a boyfriend, but Dimity stumbles into it first. Sherry is a sleazy person who appears to have no emotions - cold as a fish. Turns out he only eats 'beef with black bean sauce' at the local Chinese restaurant where Dimity works, and she later discovers, watching him gargle one morning, that he has tiny gills under each ear! And he is a strange-looking person anyway - very slender, long black hair, long nose, weak chin, and a severely back-sloping forehead. Perfect casting!
Poor Vicky-Ann is so optimistic, she gets dressed up in the wedding gown she had been hoarding, walks over next door, and Sherry in a very droll manner dismisses her. In an apparent attempt to kill herself, she climbs to the top of the local high spot, a grain silo. Dimity gets Sherry to come and help talk her down, and in a big surprise, Dimity pushes Sherry off to his death (stuntman reportedly died in this stunt), in what seemed like a sisterly thing to do, what with the dastardly treatment that Sherry was guilty of. Then, after they try to sink him in the river, he swims away, as shown by the path of the ballon Dimity had tied to him "I WUV YOU".
I like to watch all kinds of films, as part of my study and enjoyment of movies in general. A few of my favorite comedies - "Secrets and Lies" and "Trainspotting" come to mind - are foreign. But "Love Serenade", though interesting, does not come up to the overall quality of the better ones. Still, it is an interesting movie and I rate it "7" of 10, but not a very high "7".
Perhaps the fact that it's since dated so much helps, but it really gave that backwater country town vibe that made the film for me.
Highlights: Vicki-Ann's floral date dress, sets for the radio station, Chinese restaurant and Dimiti & Vicki-Ann's house.
The best part was Vicki-Ann's hair salon - perfect gaudy, girly, tack-o-rama. Loved spotting the hedgehog pencil holder on the counter too (another 80s childhood flashback).
One of the favorable reviews above describes 'curious "fish" diversions and erratic surreal moments will have a large audience drop off.' That reviewer still loves the film, as do I, so I conclude that he or she unconsciously got the message.
At the climatic moment of the film, a whole different aspect of events becomes clear, and everything in the movie is simultaneously more funny, more serious,and more affecting. I don't know of another film like it! I think it is one of the all-time great movies.
Those surreal "fish" moments are not mere diversions on the director's part... they are markers which at that moment are revealed as bits of action seen thru the eyes of the younger sister, who passes as eccentric in the small-town atmosphere... which is the movie's main POV...until that flash of retrospective clarity.
I won't say more, just wanted to communicate with viewers who love the film but still feel confused. The reverberations are wide, but the story is, finally, clear!
(The fishing metaphor here and those to follow are appropriate because at one point Dimity notices that Ken has a kind of scar on his neck making her think he has gills. Additionally he has a marlin on one of his walls, although he won't eat fish. Furthermore, in the opening scene of the movie, Dimity and Vicki-Ann are actually fishing.)
Anyway, for the girls the lesson here is be careful what you fish for since the catch of your dreams might turn out to be the tomcod of your nightmares. Dimity is younger, virginal and a bit odd. She's a waitress at the local Chinese restaurant. Older sister Rebecca is slightly desperate and on the make. She runs the town's beauty parlor. As the competition for Ken heats up they decide they hate each other. At first the younger sister Dimity seem to have him hooked, but then Rebecca seems to be hauling him in and headed for matrimonial bliss, so much so that she opens her trousseau and takes out her wedding gown to try it on and show him..., and then.... Well, the key here is that the script and direction by Shirley Barrett is just so diabolically clever and so full of keen insights into the psychology of men and women, especially women, that it is just a riot. Otto manages the sweet innocence and naiveté of a 14-year-old, although she is supposed to be twenty. The expressions she gets on her face are just so, so funny. I loved the scene where she is on Ken's couch and he is sitting arrogantly on the other end and at length asks her if she wants to be kissed. Yes, she does; and the way she slides over to him, bit by anxious bit, was just too funny. I also loved the scene where Ken is on top of her and she is lying on her back looking up at ceiling (at the camera of course) with an somewhat puzzled, pleased and expectant expression on her face, as if she is searching for what she is supposed to be feeling while Ken mechanically continues to do what he is doing.
Also good is the scene near the end, high in the silo, where Ken is explaining something to Rebecca. The camera is on him, but directly behind him we see Dimity's face smiling in some delight as if she knows how this is going to end. (And she does.)
I thought it was interesting that the small town of Sunray, Australia could have easily been Sunray Kansas or Sunray, Ohio, so much was it like a typical small American town. I also found apt how the soundtrack of seductive hits from the seventies, "Love Serenade" itself, and two others by Barry White, but also "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, mirrored Ken Sherry's "philosophy" of love and meshed well with his deep, sonorous voice. The song "My Coo Ca Choo" by Alvin Stardust played near the end was apparently a hit in Australia, but this was the first time I'd heard it. Good song.
See this for Shirley Barrett who simultaneously satirizes both male and female sexuality in a manner that would have delighted Oscar Wilde and any number of comedy writers, and for Miranda Otto who was both funny and charming.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Fortunately Australia, probably through the sheer good fortune of being so far away from the USA, has not been bitten as hard by the bug as, say, Great Britain has (and I am a certified Anglophile - please UK, turn it around before it's too late!). They still make films like this one in Oz today, and, speaking of this one, I am supposed to be reviewing it, right? Blowhards on soapboxes going off-topic are almost as bad as bland Hollywood movies! But any time that I start to give my countrymen the benefit of doubt I hear something like "America's favorite singing rodents" - so perhaps at worst you can grant a terminal malcontent his eccentricities and at best stop giving the bloodsuckers your money?
So- back to the subject at hand. This is a great movie! I loved everything about it. I'd have to say that the fish sub-theme is biggest stretch here, but it was not obtrusive and seemed to fit, sort of, in some way that will probably hit me at 3am on some sleepless night in the future. I like fish, anyway; I mean to look at them. I stopped fishing because I felt bad about killing them, although I did eat them and wasn't some a-hole on the pro bass fishing circuit (think about those four words for a moment - when did we become a people that needs a pro bass fishing circuit?) who found his American dream at the expense of the dream of a lot of fish. Yeah, they release them, but how would you like to be repeatedly jabbed with a hook and pulled from your house, unable to breathe while people did strange things to you, then released only to have it happen again, every year like clockwork; while a bunch of loud and strange machines fly about overhead and make your eyes burn and everything smell bad? And of course many of those fish swallow the hook and die, or die from the stress. So a bunch of fat morons can get rich and famous. We're not talking one guy standing on the shore with a fishing pole here. What's NOT for sale in America? OK soapbox guy emerged again, sorry! But the fish topic is relevant here. For a movie that's not about fish, it's about fish a lot. Characters: Ken Sherry - talk about love/hate. I alternately thought he was sorta cool (he wasn't, but I am an Anglophile, remember?) and a slimeball (he was). The girls, I'd never heard the name Dimity before but if I ever have a daughter I'm gonna name her Dimity. I like it. And yes, she IS odd. Her sister is annoying, but not TOO annoying. Both are cute to look at and likable in their ways. Albert is the sleeper here. Just about everything he said was gold. And I swear to you - I have had the urge to break into "Wichita Lineman" for absolutely no reason before, and have. Long before I ever saw this film. Did I tap into some universal unconscious "Wichita Lineman" thing? Who knows? But I do know that that soundtrack was excellent. Spot on. And Ken's semi-profound soliloquy? I knew where it came from, but if you don't then you will be quite surprised if you ever do find out (it's not credited but it is on an album by a famous person).
If you prefer pirate Johnny Depp to Dead Man Johnny Depp, don't bother with this movie. Actually you are probably not even reading this, and if you are reading it, you have no idea that I've been making fun of you the whole time. You and I have absolutely nothing in common. But I will give you some great advice - you'd enjoy a couple of hours at Wal-Mart a lot more than you would watching this. For the rest of you, enjoy it. And a bit of knowledge about the end (which I did not know until later) makes it all the more poignant. RIP.
But anyway...this film is good, though not great. I'm not sure I understand the whole obsession with fish. But the film does seem to capture what it's like to live in a small town (I've never lived in one, so I only know what I see in movies or read in books), and the fuss they make over the DJ isn't overdone. Miranda Otto (who, if you believe the ads in Variety, seems to have been in every Australian movie in the last three years, is especially good, even though she's stuck with the fish quirk.