Starring Brendan Cowell, Peter Helliar, Peter Dinklage and Yvonne Strahovski. Directed by Daina Reid.
Rated M (sexual references and coarse language). 103 mins.
This Aussie romantic comedy, written by Melbourne comedian Peter Helliar, starts out like many an American movie about sex and the dating game: two gauche buddies trawl the bar scene using crude pick-up lines to try to entice girls into a night of lust. Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Jim (Brendan Cowell), a 33-year-old who drives a miniature train and still lives with his parents, and his less gifted mate Blake (author Helliar) do not have good track records. In common parlance, these sad sacks are losers; and they mask their failure with the opposite sex by drinking too much and by behaving with excessive macho bravado. Then Jim is smitten by Alice (Yvonne Strahovski), a sweet English girl who sees something behind his smug Aussie bravado.
Things are developing nicely until the moment Alice mentions the word “love” and Jim becomes paralysed with fear. Unable to respond with the expected “I love you too”, he looks on helplessly as their relationship hits the rocks. To this point (the least interesting section of the film), the unable-to-make-a-commitment scenario runs pretty true to formula.
Then it changes, the catalyst being the introduction of a new character, Charlie, played by Peter Dinklage, the American actor of diminutive stature memorable in such films as The Station Agent and Death at a Funeral.
Charlie is the owner of a car Jim purloins when drunk over the loss of Alice. Urbane and cultured, the little American becomes embroiled in Jim’s romantic problems — and Jim in his. Charlie’s wife died of cancer and he mourns her deeply. But Jim finds a letter in the car that reveals Charlie also carries a torch for a mysterious woman named Francesca.
The character of Charlie, such a contrast to Jim and Blake, gives the film a new dimension, and Helliar’s script adroitly develops this to give the movie unexpected heart and pathos. Even the traditional happy ending is managed with genuine feelgood warmth and not the usual saccharinity.
The film takes too long to hit its stride, with few funny lines for a film with the description ‘comedy’, but the final part, as Charlie’s influence enables Jim to throw off the “worst boyfriend in the world” label, is rewarding. Even Blake manages to grow up somewhat.
Diector Daina Reid, a writer/actress making her first feature after television direction that includes City Homicide, All Saints and the droll ABC comedy series Very Small Business, puts her trust in the actors to make the film work. They do not disappoint, particularly Dinklage, whose smallness is handled intelligently and without exaggeration. A scene with a hotel receptionist is a perceptive example of the way the world can discriminate against people who are different (to which Charlie responds with dignity) and Blake’s dwarf jibes typify a redneck reaction.
Deserving special mention is Megan Gale, a not unattractive young lady who makes an impressive film debut playing an unattainable Italian supermodel as to the manner born.
Roadshow Out May 6
Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.