Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Love You Too


I Love You Too hits Australian cinemas today and in lieu of a full review, here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

Those familiar with Peter Helliar from Rove or the comedy circuit should already know what's in store for them with his feature screenwriting debut. Playing for laughs from brash, blokey and ocker Aussie humour, I Love You Too tries to have its rom-com cake and serve up some bromance too. It's the story of Jim (Brendan Cowell) and Alice (Yvonne Strahovski), whose 3 1/2 year relationship hits the skids when Jim is unable to say those four special words in response to Alice's heartfelt declaration. Their split is welcome news to Jim's best mate Blake (Helliar), who relishes the idea of reclaiming his cruising buddy, but instead Jim strikes up an unlikely friendship with Charlie (Peter Dinklage), whom he enlists to help him find the right words to win Alice back.

While it's certainly refreshing to see an Australian film not chained to a kitchen sink, there is something unappealing about Helliar's characterisation of the men in this film. Barring Dinklage's emotionally savvy outsider, the Aussie 'blokes' are largely portrayed as unintelligent oafs in various states of protracted childhood. Jim works at a miniature railway station, his brother in law's (Travis McMahon) singular aspiration is to win big on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (and his big emotional scene with his wife involves asking if she's separated the tomato from his sandwich, so it doesn't go soggy), while Blake thinks a supportive post-break up move is to hire a hooker. And none of this is helped by the actors seemingly playing down to their characters; indeed Cowell almost plays Jim as outright stupid.

Similarly, Helliar doesn't give any time to showing the audience why Alice likes Jim. Why would this seemingly bright, bubbly woman stay with this man-child for 3 1/2 years? To be fair, she asks herself that question, but the film shows nothing to explain her love. There is a tape of her dressed up in a superhero costume, but that's Jim's fantasy she's playing out, what does Jim do for her?

Despite these flaws, there is actually a lot to like in I Love You Too. Cowell and Dinklage have some great banter and though their relationship is totally contrived, it's fun to watch. In fact Dinklage makes this movie, not least because his character is actually thoughtful, funny and well rounded, a welcome respite from the laconic Aussies. Megan Gale also impresses as Italian supermodel Francesca Moretti. Again, Dinklage carries her through the scene, but it was good to note that her appeal translates to the big screen. Here director Daina Reid does well to balance Helliar's blokey comedy with these more heartfelt scenes. Not all the emotional revelations work, but Reid keeps up a good comedic pace while still allowing some nice, quieter moments.

I Love You Too doesn't fire on all cylinders, but Australian screenwriters should still take a leaf out of Helliar's book and look to creating more broadly appealing romantic comedies. Just don't let's leave all the smart lines to the ring-in Yank, ok?

Australian release date: 6 May 2010

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