Film Scouts Reviews

"Love Serenade"

by Liza Bear

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PARK CITY, Monday January 20 - A hilarious first feature by writer-director Shirley Barrett, Love Serenade, which cops its title from a Barry White song, has a nutty flavor all its own. A witty send-up of female naivete and male cynicism, and of romantic fantasies, film echoes Kafka in blending existential lightness of tone with offbeat, dark humor and touches of surrealism.

Protagonists in this quirkily Australian black comedy are two 20-something sisters, stuck in a backwater, the fictitious small town of Sunray, Victoria. Their placid lives are rocked by the arrival of a new neighbor - a big city dj. The laconic 44-year-old smoothie drives into town, western-style, along the blacktop to take over the only radio station. Spinning 70s soul classics and soliloquizing, one by one, he steals their hearts .

With a polished script and excellent, low-keyed performances by all 3 leads, narrative maintains suspense throughout.

Vicki Ann, 26, (Rebecca Frith) works in a unisex beauty salon and Dimity , 20, (Miranda Otto) at the town's only restaurant. They greet the arrival of their new neighbor, Ken Sherry (George Shevtov) , with high expectations. Much too high, as it turns out. A former drive-time King of Brisbane radio, the exiled dj is older by two decades than the sisters and mellowed by three divorces. He settles into his dj's daily routine, observes, and bides his time.

Initially, the script relies on chance encounters between Sherry and the sisters to set the wheels in motion, but soon Dimity and Vicki-Ann are vying rabidly with each other for Sherry's affections. Pic's fabulous denouement is worthy of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, or Aki Kaurismaki in a sunnier, less Nordic mode.

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