WAY back in 2010, Australian romantic comedy The Wedding Party opened the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The first feature by Amanda Jane certainly had the credible characteristics to open that festival: a strong, broad local cast, nice shots of a wintry Melbourne, Clare Bowditch on the score and, well, funding from the MIFF Premiere Film Fund.
The purpose of the high-profile screening had a little extra weight though: the film was yet to find a distributor. Consequently, its MIFF opening-night showing was presumed to be the make-or-break screening for the film.
The romantic comedy starring Josh Lawson as the bumbling 20-something marrying a Russian bride (Isabel Lucas) to pay off some debts received the response it wanted. The crowd loved it, or at least made much noise to profess they loved it.
But it was obvious at the time why the film hadn’t been picked up for a theatrical release: at two hours, it was just too long.
So, here we are almost two years later and The Wedding Party, previously known as Kin, is released on DVD (MA15+, Madman, 89min, $29.99). It didn’t make it to cinemas.
And it’s not altogether bad, particularly now it has lopped a half-hour from its running time ( Moulin Rouge! and Red Dog’s Jill Bilcock is now credited as ‘‘consulting editor’’).
But it’s not all good, either. The Wedding Party labours with some attributes I thought Australian films, for the most part, had left behind. There are the obvious ones, including a bare bottom seen rutting in an opening scene, a gratuitous solo dance in the living room scene, a Steve Bisley Aussie (albeit an amusing one), too many characters vying for their own narrative, an unnecessary narration and a disconnection between the male and female characters.
I was more troubled by the less obvious stuff, chiefly the film’s lack of energy.
I know it’s set in Melbourne but the cracking cast, including Heather Mitchell, Essie Davis, Geoff Paine, Nadine Garner, Adam Zwar, Kestie Morassi and Rhonda Burchmore, all seem defeated.
I concede the middle-class relationship malaise is a key point of Christine Bartlett’s screenplay but, still, romantic comedies have fairly consistent conventions because they work. And when someone attempts something different, they should still use tropes that will be familiar. A humdrum rom-com doesn’t fit and isn’t helped by a score more suited to a TV drama.
Then there’s the comic sensibility displayed by a couple of characters, especially Lawson: the Hugh Grant awkwardness that seems prevalent across so many Australian um, er, right, OK, er, sorry, comedies right now.
It’s meant to project vulnerability or dagginess but comes across only as mannered and too passive for lead characters.
If this is harsh, it’s only because the film has great moments. It’s a debut, a start from which some should learn.