Love Serenade (1996) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexual themes, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Miranda Otto, Rebecca Frith, George Shevstov, John Alansu
Director: Shirley Barrett
Screenplay: Shirley Barrett
Review published February 20, 2003
In Australia, Ken Sherry, a big-city disc jockey, travels to a country town in hopes of living a simpler, less tumultuous life after his third divorce. Seemingly "on the rebound," the two sisters who live next door to him fancy the interesting album spinner for his profound nature and sex appeal. Vicki-Ann is the more outgoing one, trying as hard as she might to get Ken's attention, but it's odd, young Dimity that actually catches his eye first. Now the two girls are in a tug-of-war for Ken's heart, but this is one man determined never to be tied down by love again.
Two reasons Love Serenade works comes through its refreshing blend of quirky humor, which sometimes borders on the surreal, and the likeably odd cast, who inject their roles with all of the personality a smart, ambitious script requires. In particular, Miranda Otto as Dimity crafts some of the funnier bits, with a crazy, sometimes childish demeanor. As is typical in many Australian comedies, the emphasis is on eccentric characterizations, and Love Serenade definitely is chock-full of those, making you laugh sometimes just at how silly Barrett is willing to get and still keep the weirdness from getting out of control.
Barrett's direction isn't quite up to the same level as her script and cast, but it isn't bad, either. Mainly, it occasionally is redundant, particularly in the use of silky, Seventies Soul music, of which Love Serenade (a hit song by Barry White of the same name) draws its inspiration. The songs punctuate most scenes, with the same ones playing repeatedly, at the expense of dialogue. While initially amusing, the novelty of them wears thin rather quickly, until they are just a gimmick, falsely attempting to be chic and punchy. What Barrett didn't realize is that it's already hip despite the catchy, cheesy tunes.
If you love quirky independent comedies, particularly of the oddball Aussie variety, Love Serenade makes for a solid diversion from run-of-the-mill Hollywood formula. Watch this for the zany script and even zanier performances, with an especially bizarre fish motif that will tickle the surrealistic funny bone in you.
©2003 Vince Leo