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WEDDING PARTY, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In a bid to save himself from financial ruin, Steve Thompson (Josh Lawson) does the unthinkable and in exchange for a large sum of cash, agrees to secretly marry Ana (Isabel Lucas), a young Russian woman seeking residency. A nosy family friend gets wind of the wedding plans and soon the whole Thompson family is gripped by wedding fever. Although Steve's family could use some constructive therapy for their own relationships, they rally together to support Steve. What was once a private registry affair is now a fully-fledged spectacle as Steve's lie takes on a life of its own, and he is more and more consumed by the fear that he has forever ruined his chance to be with his true love, Jacqui (Kestie Morassi).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are few devices in romantic comedies more powerful than a wedding - especially if it's to the wrong partner, so from that perspective, The Wedding Party has a head start. A cash-for-wedding-ring marriage of convenience is not a new device, but it's a good one. The other notable strength of the film is Christine Bartlett's screenplay, which arranges several relationship collisions, not just the central one, and does so inventively.

All is well if you accept as plausible the central premise of the screenplay, that Steve (Josh Lawson) doesn't tell his immediate family, even his mother, (Heather Mitchell), nor his beloved girlfriend Jacqui (beautifully portrayed by Kesti Morassi), that he is marrying the gorgeous Russian doll Ana (Isabel Lucas with outstanding Russian dialogue and Russian accent) just for the money. For me, this secrecy is just too far fetched without a powerful motive - and being afraid he might be breaking the law is not it in this context.

The film begins at a casino table where Steve is trying to win badly needed cash to settle outstanding bills. Unsurprisingly, he loses. He remains a loser for most of the film, and Josh Lawson seems to be attempting some sort of B grade channeling of a character that might have been created by Hugh Grant - with somewhat less charm. It's another crucial weakness of the film, making him an inept character and rather undefined; we can't manage to raise much sympathy for him, nor can we understand why Jacqui is so devoted to him. He is the one character who doesn't ring true.

As we peek inside the bedrooms of the Thompson family, we discover a variety of dysfunctions, mostly resulting from sex in some way or another, often unexpected. And all these supporting characters do ring true, with everyone in top form, from Steve Bisley as Steve's dad to Nikolai Nikolaeff as Ana's real boyfriend, Vlad. Bill Hunter makes his last appearance on film, playing the priest who conducts the ceremony, and he does it with aplomb and nuance: watch him at the end of the ceremony to see just how much he can convey with a look.

The texture and the layers of the film are well managed, with all the technicals first class and judging by the host of awards it has picked up at various festivals here and in the US, it clearly plays well to audiences.

Review by Louise Keller:
Sex and love spin chaotically on the roulette wheel in this comedy of errors in which happiness hangs in the balance. From a screenplay by Christine Bartlett, it's the debut feature for director Amanda Jane, who brings humour to the thrust, as a marriage of convenience becomes the catalyst for truth. By injecting a comical twist into a serious subject matter, a variety of issues and illusions are canvassed. As a result, the journey we take is a complicated and enjoyable one that throws up some home truths in the course of the laughter.

During the opening scene as Steve (Josh Lawson) puts his chips on the roulette wheel, we get a snapshot of all the characters in intimate situations. In the words of Eve (Nikita Leigh Pritchard), the 14 year old protagonist, there is nothing normal about the relationships in her family. Sex is the barometer that gauges them all and none are going well. Fantasies, expectations, capabilities and hopes collide as three generations struggle to sort out their issues of the heart and in the bedroom.

Lawson and Isabelle Lucas are an attractive couple as they make an unromantic decision to walk down the aisle for money and residency, not love. Lucas is lovely as the Russian belle while Kestie Morassi bares her heart as the art teacher who tells her students to paint what is there and not what they think is there. Head first, heart second, says Steve Bisley as Roger, the divorced father of the groom, who ironically tells his son that morality has nothing to do with money.

Heather Mitchell plays Roger's ex-wife, while singer Rhonda Birchmore (who gets an opportunity to belt out a song) is Roger's new squeeze, who he is not ready to introduce to the family. Most empathetic are Nadine Garner as Lisa, with the medical sex problem and her considerate husband Tommy (Adam Zwar), who agrees to visit the sex shop to buy her a vibrator. The song The Real Thing is playing in this scene, while he hilariously scrutinises the shelf filled with vibrators of different skin tones. Essie Davis is heartbreaking as Jane, whose husband Colin (Geoff Paine) fantasises in S&M, a fact their daughter Eve is quick to pick up on and keen to experiment with her boyfriend.

There's an amiable mix of laughter and tears in the proceedings at the rowdy Russian Club, the bucks night at the whip-cracking Dungeon XXX and the vodka-filled girls' night out. Amanda Jane manages the film's tone well, playing the story strands with a light touch and well sprinkled with humour. A light-weight date movie, charismatic performances and diverse story strands keep us engaged as we become entwined in all the complications of love and sex. After all, isn't that what makes the world go round?

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

WEDDING PARTY, THE (MA15+)
(Aust, 2010)

CAST: Josh Lawson, Isabel Lucas, Kestie Morassi, Steve Bisley, Essie Davis, Geoff Paine, Nadine Garner, Adam Zwar, Heather Mitchell, Rhonda Burchmore, Nikita Leigh-Pritchard, Lincoln Younes, Nikolai Nikolaoff, Bill Hunter

PRODUCER: Nicole Minchin

DIRECTOR: Amanda Jane

SCRIPT: Christine Bartlett

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Katie Milwright

EDITOR: Kylie Robertson, Amanda Jane

MUSIC: J. Walker

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lance Davis

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Label

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2012







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