Sunday, June 10, 2012

Careless Love (2012)

This marks my first  review for an independent Australian movie. I'm not really sure if I want to do a lot more of these. On one hand I'm supporting my local film industry (my monumental pool of readers would make such a difference, right?), but on the other hand I'm potentially alienating my international audience (that is to say, most of you) by reviewing something you guys will probably have a very hard time finding. I mean, I hadn't even heard of this movie before I walked into the cinema and I live literally 10 minutes away from the vast majority of its locations! Although maybe I shouldn't take this kind of stuff into consideration and should just review whatever I feel like writing about.

In any case, Careless Love is directed by John Duigan, who I hadn't heard of before but apparently  is a pretty big name in the Australian film industry. It follows Linh, a student at the University Of Sydney who has a secret night job as a prostitute. The story is made up of several subplots, each revolving around her interaction with another individual. 

What makes this film special is the realistic and mature way it deals with its subject matter. Unlike most films based around prostitution, the characters here feel like ordinary, real people. There’s no stylistic sleaziness or profanity or violence or any of that. The main character isn’t a typical psychologically unstable prostitute or a total slut or a junkie. She’s a normal human being. We see her go to lectures, visit her parents, experience problems with her room-mates and everything else. She’s just also a prostitute. This really gives the film some humanity that others try very hard to achieve.

This same sense of realism is carried over to the way the film considers itself Australian. Something very common for Australian films is to be overly patriotic or iconically Australian.  There always has to be victimised Aboriginal character with the rest of the cast being completely white. Everybody uses slang that nobody in the city actually uses as well as accents nobody actually has. Here we have a film that is realistically Australian. Sydney is an extraordinarily multicultural city, and this film accurately presents that to us. The main character is Vietnamese, and there are smaller characters from Thailand, Japan and America, for instance. This isn’t done in either a politically correct or incorrect way; it’s simply realistic. This kind of mentality is something not nearly enough films are created with.

Unfortunately, aside from the conceptually brilliant take on a character-driven prostitute story, this film really isn’t all that good. Some of the subplots seem to just be forgotten in the third act, as they never get tied up. There is a particular scene that heralds the beginning of a subplot’s ending, and out of nowhere, the main character gets a phone-call, and the scene is interrupted. After that, we are never brought back to that story, leaving it completely unfinished. There are other stories that just sort of bounce back and forth with different endings as characters make up their mind and then change it again and then make it up again. It makes the third act seem seriously indecisive and ultimately makes most of the subplots rather unfulfilling.

Many scenes also seem to be really poorly edited. A particular key scene near the end of the film that should have been one of the most emotionally affecting sequences in the whole movie is literally only about ten seconds long, and is made up of two lines of dialogue. There are numerous occasions where this kind of thing happens, and it makes the entire story feel rushed and incomplete.

There are very few recognisable actors in here, and it shows. The main character is played by Nammi Le, who has only been in one film before this. Throughout most of the film, she is tediously dead-pan and there are a few lines in the film that are just atrociously delivered. Peter O’Brien and David Field are the only two actors I recognised and they both did good jobs, but aside from them, the performances were sub-par at best.

One thing I can give it credit for is some of its imagery. It makes some very clever thematic choices in regards to what it shows you on-screen and how it shows it to you. The way it presents nudity, in particular, really impressed me. I’m afraid I can’t really go into detail without spoiling things, but you’ll understand if you watch it.

I really am torn with this movie. I want to support it and want everybody to go watch it because it really does have some great ideas in it. But I can’t deny that by the end I felt pretty dissatisfied. If you somehow find it and it’s got an affordable price tag, give it a watch, but don’t go looking for it unless you have an interest in Australian cinema.

Don't forget to catch me on my friend's podcast, of which I am a regular member, here!

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