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VIA SATELLITE

SYNOPSIS:
While New Zealand swimmer Carol Dunn (Danielle Cormack) seems poised to win an Olympic medal, her under-achieving twin sister Christine has more urgent matters on her mind. A deathbed revelation by her father has convinced Christine she and Carol are adopted. As Carol's race approaches the Dunn household is invaded by a television crew hoping to film the family's finest moment. Tensions mount with the arrival of cameraman Paul (Karl Urban), with whom Christine shared a one-night stand, her pregnant elder sister Jen (Rema Ti Wiata) and middle sister Lyn (Jodie Dorday), whose electrician husband Ken (Tim Balme) is a disaster area. With mother Joyce desperately trying to maintain the peace, rivalries, jealousies and family secrets are revealed in the eventful twenty four hours leading up to the broadcast.

"Amiable enough to begin with, director Anthony McCarten's adaptation of his own play grows tiresome the longer it goes on and has only the likeable Danielle Cormack to recommend it. There's nothing very subtle in the handling of the Dunn family's feuding, fussing and fighting and not much to care about as the squabbles are resolved one way or another. Cormack, impressive in Topless Women Talk About Their Lives and the recent Siam Sunset, has an attractive screen presence and although her character isn't particularly compelling she manages to keep us interested. Elsewhere it's none too exciting with uneven supporting cast performances unable to breathe much life into proceedings. The humour is forced and obvious, with most of the gags telegraphed from afar and it's not too hard to guess the secret of Carol and Christine's parentage long before the big reveal. This looks and feels more like a telemovie than a big screen feature and its utter blandness is unlikely to generate much excitement as it arrives and no doubt disappears from cinemas quickly."
Richard Kuipers

"As Richard (above) says, Via Satellite is a patchy affair, mixing styles - larger than life comedic through to naturalistic and melodramatic - and genres (from soap opera to contemporary social drama) without quite fusing as a whole. It's origins as a play are invisible, yet the adaptation seems laboured and clunky for much of the time. There are several good, strong scenes, mostly involving Danielle Cormack, who saves the film single-handedly (although all the cast have their moments) and the basic premise is valid enough. In exploring the push-pull nature of family relationships, Anthony McCarten touches a very exposed and widely distributed nerve. There is a key line in the film, to the effect that a family is a group of people that God has put together perfectly designed to piss each other off. That strikes a chord and certainly the subject is rich ground for exploration, but this film's attempt is found wanting; it should hit us in the solar plexus."
Andrew L. Urban

"New Zealand cinema often brings us films with quirky charm and a unique world view. This isn't one of them. It's a little like Neighbours meets an Australian film of recent vintage. I won't say which one because that will almost certainly give away the whole plot. The soap and melodrama are laid on thickly, the comedy laid on thinly; and the film gets to be something of a mish-mash after a while. I think the problem may lie in an uncertainty on the part of the filmmakers about whether to make a serious family drama (which would have required a lot more earnestness) or a larger-than-life comedy (which would have required a much lighter touch and more grotesque characters). Finally, they settle for an uneasy - and clunky - compromise between the two; with the result the comedy isn't funny and the drama doesn't engage. The plot construction is also rather unwieldy, with several scenes seeming to have no purpose at all. Danielle McCormack is fine as Chrissy (and Carol); but she spends virtually the whole film in a petulant rage against her family. Rima Te Waita suffers a similar fate as Jen; although she and Timothy Balme as her repellent husband get some of the best moments in the film. However we've seen all this stuff before in one way or another and it would've been nice to see some of that renowned Kiwi originality in this film. Via Satellite is ultimately a rather forgettable effort."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

VIA SATELLITE (M)
(US)

CAST: Danielle Cormack, Rima Te Wiata, Jodie Dorday, Tim Balme, Karl Urban, Brian Sergent.

DIRECTOR: Anthony McCarten

PRODUCER: Philippa Campbell

SCRIPT: Anthony McCarten, Greg McGee

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Riera

EDITOR: John Gilbert

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clive Memmott

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 1999







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