It doesn’t sound likely, but an Australian film as good as When Harry Met Sally opened the festival. I didn’t see it till Saturday and was blown away by its guile and sweetness and sexiness and many, many laughs.
Like Mama Mia it has a plot that Shakespeare, Chaucer, Plautus and Aristophanes unaccountably overlooked: a young man facing imminent castration decides to become a father before, in three weeks’ time, the Big Snip unmans him and with growing desperation seeks to find, woo, and swive acceptable mothers of a son or daughter he will then look after if he is in the mood.
It’s a story that like the Rock-and-Doris classic Send Me No Flowers unveils the society it is in. And modern Sydney Inner Western Suburbs twentysomethings have no precedent in world history. They have no money. They will do anything to secure a house. They take drugs a lot. They abhor the very idea of parenthood before age forty. They suspect each other of insanity, and they are not wrong. They queue for days for a concert. Their friendships last six months if they are lucky. They screw each others’ girls if they can, and lie about it. They have no clear idea if what is ahead of them, and they make no plans.
In this world the clueless Jonah (Ryan Kwanten) must find before the vernal equinox the ideal brood mare, Ms Right, who will not discard the offspring on garbage night or leave it with her Jehovah’s Witness auntie and migrate lactating to Kalimantan. His quest is rapid and exacting, and brilliant actresses flutter through his cross-hairs and casting couch while the clock ticks away his doomed fecundity and his best female friend Stevie (Sarah Snook), who shares his fine house, matchmakes him with with worse and worse tarts, kooks, performance poets, smacked-out former nymphos, and the like. And then, when he looks at Stevie again…the girl, nonetheless, of his best male friend and constant musical collaborator Gus (Ryan Corr)… and looks at her again… and she looks back …
You get the idea. Beautifully shot with Minnelli-standard rave-party crowd scenes, it manages also what might be called Ocker Euphemism, the ‘yeah, whatever, see you’ obliqueness with which kids these days, absorbed by their computers and their social diseases, dismiss and pass by and voice their hatred of each other, better than any competition. The script, by Michael Lucas, rivals even Richard Curtis and the direction by Peter Templeton, twentyish Oscar nominee, is as good as, well, Minnelli. The three leads outscore Jesse Eisenberg, Cameron Diaz and Max Minghella and the multitudinous great supporting performances show how good our acting schools are: the best, perhaps, in the world.
In similar territory but a different town a French film, Love Lasts Three Years, overleaps Truffaut, Ephron, Woody, Richard Curtis and even Preston Sturges, achieving a new high in romcom and premiering a new auteur, Frederic Beigbeder, well worthy of that quaint Parisian label, directing it and almost certainly living it.
A young, mediocre literary critic, Marc Marronier (Gaspard Proust) smashed up by his broken marriage, writes a novel, Love Lasts Three Years, whose clumsy chauvinism and cynical sniggering divides the French, under an assumed name, because he does not want to lose friends or opportunities for sexual conquest. He then, at his grandmother’s funeral, finds the ideal girl Alice (Louise Borgain), a fashion photographer married alas to his dull cousin, who proposes they be unconsummate best friends. This doesn’t last, and they are hugely in love, and she leaves his cousin and moves in with him on the condition he never lies to her. And then she finds out that it was he who wrote this awful book, and he has been lying to her. And she leaves him. And he drunkenly pines for her, schupping this and that girl as the just entitlements of a prizewinning third-rate writer.
As in Annie Hall there are fantasy reunion sequences and he talks to the camera. As in Love Actually there is a race to an airport. He shows us the Basque sights he did not see while they fucked all weekend. Every line is disarming and funny and it is a wonderful film. Like all French male stars Proust has a long nose, and you don’t mind. And Borgain has the dark devil-cat eyes of Fanny Ardant and the effortless ease when naked of Maria Schneider. Much fun is had with his father’s young Japanese mistress, his best friend’s promiscuous Russian bride, his female publisher’s avaricious detestation of his writing, his mother’s rival fame as a writer, the literary establishment’s contempt for him even as they give him prizes, and so on. This is the first romcom whose plot turns on a literary disagreement, and it must, it must, be seen.
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