August 714, 1997
A Miramax Films Release
Opening Friday, Aug. 8 at a Ritz Theater to be announced see Showtimes.
Rebecca Frith (l.) and Miranda Otto in Love Serenade.
Barry White breathes like no one else. His familiar, sonorous tones fill the first moments of the soundtrack in Australian writer-director Shirley Barrett's debut feature. Laid over an on-the-road scene (point of view from a car, overhead view of thehighway), White's "Love Serenade" introduces Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov), a "highly regarded radio personality" from the big city of Brisbane, now on his way to the dismally small (fictional) town of Sunray. Tall and gangly, andnot a little dorky-looking, Ken is lip-synching with White's "baby, baby" while driving his circa-'80s RXZ past a weathered "Welcome to Sunray" road sign.
More specifically, this sign reads, "Hey anglers!" Sunray is a fishing town, and Ken, though he doesn't know it yet, will become both fisherman (metaphorically) and fish (less metaphorically). Considering himself quite a catch, mysteriousand seductive, he's also three-times-divorced: lowering his voice and stretching out his syllables, he informs his new listeners that his only offense has been to "love a little too much, a little too hard," for which he's been judgedharshly. Lucky for Ken or so it seems initially he moves in next door to two sisters who happen to be looking for love.
Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith) and Dimity (Miranda Otto) also happen to be anglers, in several senses of the word. After an outing on the local river, they arrive home with supper and spot their new neighbor. Ken's appearance brings their long-simmeringcompetition to a boil. Twenty-six-year-old Vicki-Ann immediately asserts her claim, contending that little sister (20ish) Dimity's just too "odd." This from a woman who runs the "Unisex Hair" shop downtown, wears her hair toopermed and her eye shadow too thick, and keeps her wedding dress in a box in her bedroom (her fiance died a few years back, when he "fell on his chainsaw").
It's true that Dimity has an awkwardness about her, not to mention a keen interest in all things fishy. She provides the movie's central point of view, which is, on occasion, surrealish (she imagines that Ken has gills, for instance, an idea thatseems plausible in context). Dimity surprises herself and her sister by catching Ken's eye when he comes to eat at the restaurant and going home with him (he promises to show her a "very big fish," which turns out to be mounted on hisliving room wall). When she lowers her eyes and sheepishly confesses that she's never "exactly" even kissed a man, Ken leans back into the sofa, smug and ready: virgins, he drawls, are his "speciality."
You think you see where this is going, especially when Ken starts screwing Vicki-Ann as well, asserting his need for "freedom." But the film is clever enough that it becomes increasingly unclear who's being reeled in and who's reeling. Andreally, whatever is going on with Ken is much less interesting than the sisters' relationship. For all his posturing, he's merely the occasion for the film's astute, funny consideration of the girls' survival in that strange land of romance.