by Elizabeth Weitzman
Love and Other Catastrophes - Truth or Consequences, N. M. - Love Serenade
A perfect date movie for all but the most cynical, Love and Other Catastrophes examines a day in the lives of four lovelorn Australian college students. The film depends on a whole lot of clichés, from the retro-hip references (one of these days, the mirror's gonna answer back when asked, You talkin' to me? ) to the Gen-X whining (I'll never finish my thesis on Doris Day as Feminist Warrior!) to the plotlines themselves (you'll know where each story is heading within the first five minutesten if you've never seen a romance before). However, 23-year-old director Emma-Kate Croghan has assembled a fantastic cast of newcomers that saves her movie from banality. Each actor brings so much charm to his or her role that it's hard to single out just one, but Frances O'Connnor's Mia uses her curlicued grin to such knowing and adorable advantage that the audience is as susceptible to her selfish charm as her character's long-suffering girlfriend is. You'll be smiling in spite of yourself when the lights come up, but don't be surprised if the guy in front of you turns to his date and mutters, God that was so '93.
The latest graduate of the Q.T. School of Filmmaking, Kiefer Sutherland has directed a first feature that proves he's been reading his Cliffs Notes: Raymond (Vincent Gallo) and his true love Addy (Kim Dickens) are on their way to a quiet life in Mexico, just as soon as they complete The Big Drug Heist. But then Raymond's best friend Curtis, a hothead who can't keep it in his holster (I'm guessing Sutherland couldn't afford Chris Penn so he cast himself for scale), messes everything up. Addy and their other partner, Marcus (Mykelti Williamson), know they should dump this maniac. But Raymond's a really loyal and decent guy if you can see past the several firearms he carries, and so instead they all hide out in New Mexico with a hostage yuppie couple who are both repulsed and fascinated by the dark side (Kevin Pollack provides welcome humor as the geek who thinks he has what it takes to live the mobster life). In between are slo-mo shots of black-clad gangsters walking in single-file; killers arguing cute about Yogi Bear; and Capo Martin Sheen regretfully cutting the fingers off a fresh-faced would-be informant. The truth is, this movie will have you well entertained for two hours; Sutherland keeps the adrenaline going with an excellent soundtrack and, to say the least, plenty of bang for your buck. Consequently, however, you'll probably go out and rent Reservoir Dogs the next day.
I have reason to believe your fiancee may be a fish, Dimity Hurley tells her older sister Vicki-Ann solemnly towards the end of Love Serenade. Having recently been intimate with said fiancee herself (in one of the funniest seduction scenes on film), Dimity knows whereof she speaks. Throughout most of this fabulously oddball movie, the Hurley sisters fight for the attention of radio personality Ken Sherry, who has recently arrived in the small Australian town of Sunray from the relative metropolis of Brisbane. Sherry's a thrice-divorced sleaze who appeals to his audience, in a low voice that aims for Barry White but doesn't even make Johnny Fever, All I've done is love a little too much and a little too hard. With Dimity a perceptive naif, Vicki-Ann a cosmopolitan fool, and Ken a cold-blooded lounge lizard with all the best lines (Just because I'm having sex with your sister doesn't mean I care for you one iota less), director Shirley Barrett could easily have fallen into a cliché sinkhole. Instead, she's made a movie of fantastic originality, one that moves from inspired placement of Bacharach's What the World Needs Now to loony use of an I Wuv You balloon with all the ease of silk sliding off a leatherette couch.