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STRANGE PLANET

SYNOPSIS:
Two groups of friends are searching for their ‘selves’. Judy (Claudia Karvan) hopes that focusing on her career will help overcome her father complex. Alice (Naomi Watts) is morally strict but this is causing inertia problems. Sally (Alice Garner) is a party girl open to all experiences. Ewan (Tom Long) the lawyer hates the law and doesn’t believe in love. Joel (Aaron Jeffrey) gets a huge shock when his wife leaves him. Neil (Felix Williamson) is desperate for love – any woman will do, he thinks. In the year between two New Year’s Eves, the six characters are flung further and further from what they hope to find, until fate steps in.

"Emma Kate Croghan’s filmmaking talents are well showcased in this accomplished, clever, entertaining and engaging film about a group of urban youth in search of … that elusive thing, our own identity. Almost Altmanesque in its treatment of eventually intersecting journeys by characters we get to know early on, Strange Planet takes its title from a quaint idea in an old black and white tv show, The Astronauts, in which the characters crash land on what they imagine to be an alien planet – an assumption that proves false. But Croghan’s target isn’t the evil of assumption, she’s chasing the comedy of the human condition as experienced by youth in a western metropolis. Above all, it’s relationship- driven; that is, the big questions of relationships, sexual and otherwise, and how to find the ones that matter to you. Use of time lapse photography becomes a style signature through the film, but it’s more than style: Croghan uses it to express time passing and also to add energy and pace to the film. And it succeeds at that. Music, too, is effectively used to generate the dynamics of a film that will appeal to the 18 – 35 market as a dazzling piece of fun filmmaking with something to say."
Andrew L. Urban

"There's nothing worse than being boyfriendless on New Year's day" is how Alice (Naomi Watts) sums up the situation in the opening scenes of Emma-Kate Croghan's much-anticipated second feature film. If Alice's statement seems important then you'll probably enjoy this entry in the twenty- somethings- trying- to- find- love- and- happiness stakes. Unfortunately what was wonderfully fresh, real and funny amongst the students in Croghan's first film, Love And Other Catastrophes, becomes dull and uninvolving this time around. Quirky is what it's meant to be but the laborious discussions by these uninteresting characters, whose endless analysis of relationships seem to be quoted directly from the pages of Cleo and Cosmopolitan magazines, is hardly substantial as comedy or drama. Events brighten up with the arrival of Hugo Weaving as a sleazy, married TV producer Karvan becomes involved with but the crushing feeling that we've been here before and under much better conditions is ever-present. The three young male characters are a nondescript bunch with only Tom Long as a lawyer at the crossroads making even slight impact. Half a dozen characters and not one to really care about was my unhappy reaction to this film which I wanted to like but couldn't. Mark this down as second feature syndrome for Croghan. It's unfortunately her 'Mall Rats' but let's not forget that Kevin Smith bounced back after that disaster with Chasing Amy and Croghan has too much talent to not reply with something different and far more rewarding."
Richard Kuipers

"It's always tough to follow up one's feature film debut that was so successful, with a worthy successor. Emma Kate Croghan, however, has done just that with this irresistible charmer, a film that is intricately written and structured, full of marvellously created characters that seem to leap out of the screen and grab hold of you. Writers Stavros Kazantzidis and Emma-Kate Croghan have a perfect ear for dialogue and character, and both have been realised with perfect pitch here. The pair's characters are a flawed but endearing menagerie of hopeful and hapless romantics, searching for we all want or crave: love and companionship. But Strange Planet is also a film about what it is that binds together as friends, and that sense of kinship is explored with eloquence, truthfulness, intelligence and of course, humour. The film is fitfully funny, but unlike Croghan's Love and other Catastrophes, Strange Planet seems to say more about humanity and with a greater understanding. Claudia Karvan is making a name for herself as a skilled comedic actress and she has never been better and surer of her depths as a diverse actor. She's wonderfully real and a delight. In a more difficult role, Naomi Watts returns to Australian cinema as the fragile, but seemingly level-headed Alice. Technically, Strange Planet is outstanding, sharply cut together and beautifully photographed by Justin Brickle, utilising Sydney in ways rarely seen in Australian films. Featuring an effective soundtrack, Strange Planet is a quirky, yet painfully honest film about relationships, lost souls and finding oneself, as we approach uncertain times."
Paul Fischer

"Emma-Kate Croghan’s crowd-pleasing first feature, Love And Other Catastrophes, was designed to look like a semi-amateur lark, a throwaway skit about charming, self-involved film students. It was fun, but there really wasn’t much there (except the star presence of Francis O’Connor). The higher-budgeted Strange Planet is a slicker technical package; the vibrant colors and tight editing seem geared to the upmarket Sydney milieu, in deliberate contrast to the rough-edged ‘alternative’ Melbourne of the earlier work. But if the bohemian ambience has largely gone, this is still basically a student film, reliant on audience goodwill toward its pop-culture references, cute camera tricks, and general ingratiating whimsy. A lot happens over ninety minutes – relationship breakdowns, mental collapses, an attempted rape – but there’s no plot, none of it builds, nothing leads to more than a couple of jokes and a feelgood moment or two. What grates here, as in many cheery ‘independent’ comedies, is the trivial mix of strained hipness and blithe self-congratulation. There’s no real distance from the characters – nothing like the satiric perspective of, say, Whit Stillman’s The Last Days Of Disco (which concerns a similar bunch of college graduates on the verge of yuppiedom). At best, it’s like a rawer episode of Friends. At worst, the depiction of dating, friendship and today’s funky urban lifestyle has all the depth and wit of a tampon commercial. The young lead cast do their best, but no single performer really stands out – though there’s always Hugo Weaving, Australia’s newest and weirdest international icon. Fresh from his triumph as a computer-generated bad guy in The Matrix, he’s no less suavely inhuman here playing a shifty TV producer, looking down upon his fellow actors from a strange planet that’s all his own."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1


EMMA-KATE CROGHAN INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban

STRANGE PLANET (MA)
(Aus)

CAST: Claudia Karvan, Naomi Watts, Alice Garner, Tom Long, Aaron Jeffery, Felix Williamson, Hugo Weaving, Rebecca Frith.

DIRECTOR: Emma-Kate Croghan

PRODUCER: Stavros Kazantzidis, Anastasia Sideris
SCRIPT: Stavros Kazantzidis and Emma-Kate Croghan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Justin Brickle

EDITOR: Ken Sallows

MUSIC: tba

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Annie Beauchamp

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 7, 1999

 







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