Second Hand Wedding. Starring Geraldine Brophy, Patrick Wilson, Holly Shanahan, Ryan O’Kane, Tina Regtien and John Rowles. Directed by Paul Murphy. Rated PG (mild themes and infrequent coarse language). 94mins.
Like Australia and with some notable exceptions like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, New Zealand specializes in small, low-budget films. Once Were Warriors, Heavenly Creatures, Whale Rider and The World’s Fastest Indian are very good examples, though it is worth noting that while the quirky comedy is our strong suit, the domestic drama dominates across the Tasman.
Made in 2008, Second Hand Wedding is a low-budget heart-warming film about the Rose family who live on the beautiful Kapiti Coast outside Wellington. Jill and Brian are happily married. Indeed it is refreshing to see such a happy couple portrayed on the big screen.
Brian is a spanner-head, a renovator of antique cars. By day Jill is a state primary school principal, but by night and weekend she is the local garage sale queen, a breed at risk from the EBay infection.
Jill and Brian’s daughter Cheryl has followed her mother into primary school teaching, but is embarrassed by Jill’s obsession with getting the bargain. When Cheryl’s long-time defacto husband, mechanic Stew, proposes, Cheryl rightly fears that Jill will want to get the maximum nuptial bang for the lowest possible buck. With pent-up emotions from a lifetime of feeling that second hand is second class, Cheryl break her mother’s heart.
Second Hand Wedding is a moving and enjoyable small-scale film. The four main characters are particularly well drawn and lovable. Geraldine Brophy and Holly Shanahan won best acting NZFTV Awards for their performances in 2008. The supporting characters are less successful, often being allowed to be too arch. In fact every time Second Hand Wedding works at being funny it backfires. Even calling the family Rose and thereby invoking “Second Hand Rose” is ham fisted. But when the laughs emerge from the domestic interactions, it feels right and can be very funny indeed.
Although religion plays no role in the Rose’s family life or in Cheryl’s wedding, the values of the film are in the right place. Growing up, forgiving parents for being one’s parents and telling the truth in charity are all nicely explored.
The worst scene, however, is where the seemingly honourable Jill fakes a sexual harassment scene at school to get a lecherous antique dealer off her metaphorical back. This plays into the hands of those who believe that all such cases are make believe. It jars on every level.
Given that Australians now spend an average of $39,000 on a wedding ($6,500 an hour), Second Hand Wedding might be a portent of things to come.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out July 29 2010