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Now in its second year, the Australian Film Festival opened last week at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick with the Sydney Premiere of Amanda Jane’s The Wedding Party. The film opened the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2010 and was financed by MIFF’s feature film grant to a mixed reception. and it has received a mixed reception. One on-line punter said “The audience laughed the whole way through and so did I. I think it is so refreshing to see an ensemble Australian film with so many characters intertwining stories and to see such great comic actors.” another said “what a waste of time. of all the brilliant films on offer at MIFF, why on earth did they decide to open on the strongest tone of mediocrity.”
It’s a romantic comedy – and Australians got a bit burnt by home-grown rom-coms back in the mid 1990s and the reaction to it could be a hang over from that… but regardless there is a great amount of value in having a local celebration of Australian Film (Dungog does this well… but nice to have one closer to home)

The premise goes a little like this: “The Wedding Party is a sexy romantic comedy about the Thompson Family, whose individual love lives range from deviant to delicious to downright desperate. Up to his eyeballs in debt, the youngest son Steve (Josh Lawson), agrees to marry Anna (Isabel Lucas), a beautiful Russian girl for cash. When his plans for a secret registry affair are discovered by his family, Steve finds himself at the center of the world’s most farcical wedding. The only problem is, Steve is in love with someone else.”

With an all-recognisable cast including Josh Lawson, Isabel Lucas, Steve Bisley, Rhonda Burchmore, Nadine Garner, Essie Davis – this is clearly a big Australian film – but not in terms of box office (currently estimated on IMDB at $1.8 Million).

Josh Lawson’s Steve is charming – no two ways about it – and we feel sorry for this loser of a guy who just doesn’t have his “shit together” according to his girlfriend Jacqui (Kestie Morassi) and digs himself a deeper hole. Strangley the performances in this film swing between subtle to full -throttle – with Steve Bisley and Rhonda Burchmore with their acting dials turned up to 10. The primary problem is that there are so many characters in this film that the story for each couple is never fully realised. There is so much going on – we are given only moments of each relationship. There seems to be a high level of dissatisfaction amongst characters in their film about their relationships, and the only example/advice given about happy relationships is by an elderly man in a nursing home who is a cameo. So the actual story seems thin, the characters are thin and no one is really invesigated nor appreciated to the full extent of the narrative possibility. One would think that the story belongs to Eve (as she is our narrator) but she is barely present in the lives of the adults (not at the pub etc) and so is a missing guide for our narrative compass.

Additionally, it’s difficult to like/feel sympathy for Isabel Lucas – I saw an interview with her on Rove http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml35pvVpYDk and I must say I winced my way through the earnestness of the interview. And I must say that through out the film I found her performance to be equally as dull. Yes she is beautiful – but is she other things? Is she funny? Is she smart? In everything she seems a little bit stunned – a little bit hollow. And the major conflict in this film is her being desired by all the men – and being so desirable. I didn’t buy it. And I didn’t care about her plight at all. I thought she was a deceptive and shallow person who deserved to be deported.

So what’s good about this film?

It’s light. It has moments that are cute – and it’s an Aussie rom-com (by that I mean it’s rare and refreshing). The thing I am most interested in that there were a huge amount of content about women’s sexuality, body parts and sexiness and on none of these occasions were breasts or bums or bodies exposed. Strangely though, there was a fair bit of man-bottom.

Still, it’s harmless and has some interesting things to say about love and sex and long term relationships.