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MY LIFE IN RUINS

SYNOPSIS:
Georgia (Nia Vardalos) has lost her kefi (Greek for mojo). Discouraged by her lack of direction in life as a historian, she works as a downtrodden travel guide for Maria (Bernice Stegers) in Athens. Given a rag tag group of tourists as she tries to show them the beauty and the history of her native Greece. But as recently widowed Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) explains to her, these tourists are more interested in sexy, funny stories and cheap souvenirs. With her tall, dark and handsome part time driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis), Georgia sets off on a six day tour in which she has to deal with the group's various shortcomings, from the petulant and morose 16 year old Caitlin (Sophie Stuckey) to her quarrelling, arrogant parents (Caroline Goodall and Ian Ogilvy) and ageing klyptomaniac Dorcas (Sheila Bernette). In the end, she also has to find a way of getting out of her rut.

Review by Louise Keller:
The beauty of Greece is the star of this good-natured but trite comedy in which eating ice cream and getting a hair cut seems to be the formula for happiness. There's no denying Nia Vardalos' appeal as the stitched up Greek tour guide lacking in people skills who discovers there is romance in more than classical history, but it is all too simplistic and contrived. It engages to a point, but everything is overdone and the bus-load of tourists from hell is nothing but a convenient cacophony of stereotypical caricatures, begging for a laugh. As a consequence, I was irritated and frustrated in what could have been a charming Greek sojourn.

When we meet Vardalos' Georgia in the travel agency run by her overbearing, leopard-skin wearing boss Maria (Bernice Stegers), we understand straight away why she has been relegated to being the tour guide for the misfits. Being funny, supplying lashings of food and time for cheesy souvenir shopping is what makes Georgia's competitive counterpart Nico (Alistair McGowan) Mr Popularity, which in itself grates. Are there no tourists who are genuinely interested to see the Parthenon without a comedy routine? Georgia's Group B comprises a couple of drunk Australians, a bickering couple with a chronically unhappy daughter, two buxom Spanish divorcees on the prowl, some loud Americans and an old English biddy who gets her kicks from shoplifting. Richard Dreyfuss is Irv ('the Oracle'), the perceptive widower, whose insight solves everyone's problems, while Alexis Georgoulis has appeal as Poupi, the long-haired bus driver ('don't forget to brush him'), who wins Georgia's heart.

Mike Reiss's screenplay plays out like a sitcom and we are never satisfied with the outcome for any of the characters. When Georgia is told 'You've got to get in touch with your wild thing', could the answer really be as simple as letting down her hair, dropping chocolate ice-cream on her blue blazer and dancing like Anthony Quinn in Zorba The Greek? According to director Donald Petrie, it is. José Luis Alcaine's cinematography however, beautifully captures the locations and the sun sparkles enticingly on the azure blue Aegean. But My Big Fat Greek Wedding this is not.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
All the things that make good comedy great are missing from this lame effort, notably truth. As weak as the weakest of Aussie comedies of past years, My Life in Ruins has been concocted - not written. It assembles its elements like an amateur cook who believes that tossing it all into the pot will make the final dish tasty. That sort of laziness makes for a laboured and largely tyring film in which Nia Vardalos struggles to create a real character and her situation struggles to be funny.

The tourists are crude stereotypes, including a painfully ocker young Aussie couple, an ageing couple, two young and lusty Spanish widows, a noisy American and Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) who serves as the emotional anchor and wise old man of the group. The best thing in the film is the handsome Alexis Georgoulis as the driver with the 'funny' name, Poupi Kakas. Well, that's how hilarious things are in this film. Vardalos herself is plastically likeable enough, and we sympathise with her status as the underdog, while her beastly colleague, Nico (Alistair McGowan) is favoured by their boss, the improbable Maria (Bernice Stegers). We almost get to care about Georgia's fate, if it weren't for the fact that none of the film rings true and real.

Especially not the lowest common denominator sensibility which reinforces (and seems to encourage) a total lack of interest in or respect for the antiquities of Greece, in favour of the cheapest thrills of tourism. If it's meant as a satirical swipe at mass tourism, it falls flat.

The jokes are as rough as the screenplay, crude in the unfinished, unpolished sense; like a crude sketch before writers refine it. Undemanding escapism though it may be, audiences deserve something with fewer chap jokes and clichés and more genuine humour.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

MY LIFE IN RUINS (PG)
(US/Spain, 2009)

CAST: Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Rachel Dratch, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams, Caroline Goodall, Ian Ogilvy, Sophie Stuckey, Maria Botto, Marta Schwizer, Bernice Stegers

PRODUCER: Michelle Chydzik Sowa, Nathalie Marciano

DIRECTOR: Donald Petrie

SCRIPT: Mike Reiss

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jose Luis Alcaine

EDITOR: Patrick J. Don Vito

MUSIC: David Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Chapman

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 16, 2009







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