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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.
Dimity Hurley is an awkward young woman who lives in a small Australian
country town with her neurotic older sister Vicky-Anne. The sister's
ordered lives are thrown off balance when Ken Sherry, an apathetic DJ
from the city moves in next door.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just because Dimity sees gills doesn't mean they're really gills. She is, after all, pretty weird. The ending shows Dimity's "I Wuv You" balloon tied to Sherry's body definitely moving away, but Sherry's not visible under water, and the film has set up the river as a place where dogs can be taken away, either by big black holes or large fish. This movie is better if you don't assume you know what's going on under water or what those strange marks on Sherry's neck truly mean. Is he a fish? Really?! Does he truly die at the end? The sisters' reaction to Sherry's "death" is what's really interesting here, whether he's a fish or not.
Miranda Otto is, as always, superb as a socially deficient young woman living in a backwater town on the Murray which becomes home to the closest thing she's seen to a real-life celebrity: a disgraced, thrice-divorced former Brisbane DJ - and a sleaze to boot - becomes the town's new radio announcer. Otto and her older sister wage an hilarious war for the affections of the skinny, unnattractive man in his mid-40s, who has more than just a passing resemblance to a fish... Good Aussie film, Stratton gave it 4 stars (he must have seen something in it that I didn't), I'll give it 3 due to the slight lull in the middle. Rating: 7/10.
Brilliant!!!!! Well deserving of it's Cannes award. Superior acting (by
all), directing, set (excellent), costuming, editing, photography
(magnificent--transforms what the eye sees into another actor), sound
(wonderful--transforms what the ear hears into another actor). The people
who did this movie are an extremely talented bunch!
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.
Plenty of good reviews up already covering the quirky humour and great
soundtrack. Just wanted to give some praise for the Production and
Costume Design - it's great!
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).
For those who have already seen this must-see film:
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!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov), a tall, divorced, sleazy, and a bit in
love with himself disc jockey from Brisbane comes to the tiny berg of
Sunray to take over disc jockeying duties at the local radio station.
He likes to spin platters with deep vocals from seductive male voices
like Barry White's while spewing out tidbits of philosophy and poetry
designed to enthrall the ladies. In the house next door to the one he
has acquired, live two unmarried sisters, Dimity (Miranda Otto) and
Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith) who toss out the lures in the hope of landing
such a catch.
(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!)
How much can one say about a film that they truly loved? I find it much
easier to write about the ones that are bad; not the ones that are
badly made but entertaining in their earnestness, but the ones that
Hollywood keeps churning out to a worldwide audience that grows
exponentially. The ones that Karl Marx might today call the opiate of
the masses; although I, having experienced both, am here to say that
opiates are much more enjoyable than "Die Hard 9" or any film with
Jerry Seinfeld providing the voice of a bee could ever be. I could just
get off my soapbox and let it go, but the tragedy is that most
Americans are f'ing idiots who, by substituting Hollywood's audience
tested, product placed, fast food promo'd exercises in greatest common
denominator blandness for any real and meaningful interaction with
their fellow humans, make it so insanely profitable for the film
INDUSTRY to churn out these movies that they lead other countries who
previously produced great "small" films like Love Serenade into a
sparkling future of uncompromising blandness.
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.
I saw it last night on TV. This is probably the best comedy that Australia has made. It's very funny in a subtle type of way that really captures so much of our outback attitudes. The ending is comic because of the surreal image of that fish.
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