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Harvey, a self-doubting private investigator, plans to marry his girlfriend until he is hired to solve an adultery case and discovers the adulterer is cheating with his fiancée. Lost and dejected, Harvey quits his job and wallows in booze and the occasional odd blind date. Meanwhile, Katia, a Jewish woman from St. Petersburg, arrives in Sydney after answering an ad from an international matchmaking agency. But instead of love, she finds her prospective groom dead on arrival. Stranded in a foreign city with no one to turn to, Katia meets Ethan, a married man and Harvey's best friend. Ethan is soon scheming to figure out a way to keep Katia in the country without his wife Miriam discovering the affair. Ethan comes up with the perfect solution: he offers Harvey enough money to start writing the novel he has always dreamed of, if he agrees to marry Katia. Harvey is appalled by the idea. Ethan's marriage had been his only example that love can faithfully exist. However, since he needs the ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This is another cute little romantic comedy from Australia, `Greencard' meets `Notting Hill' with a little help from the brilliant Billy Wilder comedy of 1960, `The Apartment'. Why see it? Well, it has Hugh Weaving, he of the lugubrious features, as Harvey, a private investigator, who agrees to house his mate Ethan's Russian mistress Katia and later to marry her so she can stay in the country. The film also has Natalia Novikova, a recent NIDA graduate, who really fits the bill as the imported Russian sex goddess with all the chutzpah one would expect. Despite their incompatibility, Harvey and Katia fall for each other, as is always the case in this genre.
Ethan and Katia are both jewish, which brings in the films's other distinctive feature, the Russian jewish community of Sydney's eastern suburbs (Harvey on the other hand describes himself as a Catholic Atheist). Your correspondent happened to see this film a couple of weeks after it opened in a cinema in the area usually patronised by the under 25s and the small audience seemed to be middle-aged to elderly, and speaking a fair bit of Yiddish. I guess, since the film was made in and around Bondi, they had turned up to see how they and their friends looked as extras in the restaurant, party and wedding scenes.
I note most of the American critics hated this film, but I thought it worth seeing if only for Natalia Novikova as Katia. She is absolutely gorgeous and is going to have a hard time topping this performance. Hugo Weaving usually does villains (remember the Matrix?) and seemed a little uncomfortable even as a sad sack p. i. hero, but he makes it though OK. David Wenham, normally a truly brilliant actor, was a bit smug and colourless as Ethan the wife-cheater though Rebecca Frith made the most of her role as the cheated-upon wife. I also liked Sasha Horler as Katia's Russian friend who takes a shine to Harvey.
There is plenty of appropriate folk music and ethnic cuisine, and the whole thing is reasonably entertaining, if not at the cutting edge of Australian film-making. This is a `government film' (Australian Film Finance Corporation) and the producers have played pretty safe musn't offend anyone when the taxpayer is paying but romantic comedy is a pretty played-out genre, even with an ethnic slant. Creates employment I guess. Still, as usual Sydney photographs well (though the colour is a bit peculiar at times) and this film will not drive tourists away. A pity most Russians are too poor at present to make the journey.
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