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This movie is a little gem in which all the odd ingredients come together to form a surprisingly spot-on depiction of Australian life for a large percentage of the population. It scores big points for depicting life in the fairly unglamorous and largely forgotten country towns. The two sisters, especially the Rebecca Frith character (why this movie didn't make her a superstar is a shock to me) are spot on. But where this movie makes the leap from good Aussie flick to comic gem is its lack of fear in being strange. I won't spoil the many surprising treats by giving any of them away here but I will say that if you're a fan of Preston Sturges, this movie is his unlikely Aussie bastard child.
There are some films that seem to go so deep, they should just be allowed to go on and on. Their light is so bright they seem to compete with nature itself - they uplift and enlighten. Love Serenade, with it's repetitive Barry White underscore, its dead-on "this is not an act" performances and above all it's eccentric, unforeseen dialogue, plot and visuals has been added to my list of all-time bests. There's so much to learn here about art.
As a counter to the negative comments elsewhere re this film - I found
it extremely funny. Although I should note that I'm from country
Australia where this is based - so it's not surprising that people from
elsewhere might not appreciate the humour eg. references to the
"excitement of Brisbane."
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.
Overshadowed during its release by the tragic death of a stuntman
Collin Dragsbaek during production, Love Serenade rises as a
refreshing, observation rich film about despairing souls that happen to
come together in "Sunray" a fictional country town. A town like so many
real ones in Australia that manage to have a forlorn charm that shines
through isolation and solitude. Love Serenade manages to sensitively
capture this intangible quality to cradle its story within.
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.
This terrific little movie has a simple but bizarre plot that gets
completely weird along the way ...
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.
"Love Serenade" is a quirky and original film. I'm reminded of Pauline Kael's remark about "Passport to Pimlico" - "comedy with a fine flavour." I'd never heard of this and only rented it because of a recommendation by David Stratton on the cover. And I'm glad I got it out - it's been years since I liked a film this much. It's generally quiet, but its off-kilter humour is really very funny, and its observations about the sexes are poignant and even disturbing. The soundtrack is a key factor; it's a great collection of smooth seventies soul tracks, but they're used ironically, and you feel a little guilty for enjoying them so much. The performances are really fine, too. In all it's a wonderful film and it needs to be seen.
I thought this was a very unique movie, with the same dry quirkiness as
some other Australian flicks of the 90s like Muriel's Wedding and
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In a stunt toward the end of Love Serenade, the stuntman died. This shot was used in the film. Does that make it snuff? It shouldn't, but writer director Shirley Bassett hasn't got over it and made a film since- and she should as soon as possible. Grade A black comedy that goes til it stops without becoming forced or predictable. Come back Shirley-
I've noticed that some people here are having a hard time finding this film, Love Serenade, on video or DVD. I was lucky enough to be able to catch this one on cable, either on Sundance channel or IFC, but this was a real fun movie to watch. The two sisters live together and eat lunch together every day, but along comes a new neighbor who moves in next door, and these two are at each other's throats to win the bloke over, before he even unpacks his suitcase! The new guy is a DJ named Ken Sherry, who just moved out to the sticks presumably after losing his job in the big city! And he's as smooth as Barry White on a Saturday night, this DJ, so both of them are captivated and try to do things for him to win him over, like catch him a big stinky fish or cook some crappy rubbish. The main gal, Vicki-Ann Hurley, is played by Rebecca Frith, whom I came to love after watching this, and who I just saw last night in another Aussie film also worth seeing, 'A Man's Gotta Do' (2004). Miranda Otto has top billing though, as the 'not-so'bright' younger sister, Dimity, and is enjoyable to watch as well. These two ladies play off each other well and there are some other nice characters in it that makes this a quirky comedy, fine Aussie entertainment! If you can find this at the video store, snatch it up! 7 out of 10 stars. *******
For those of us who are not MTV Generationers, the people who live for
bang-bang, shoot-'em-up and blow-'em-up three-second cuts in every movie
they see, little gifts are occasionally given. Such as "Love
"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.
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