let­ter box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

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.

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