Love And Other Catastrophes

on March 28, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
   An engaging comedy by talented 23-year-old Australian director Emma-Kate Croghan, "Love and Other Catastrophes," which screened in the market at Cannes, was one of the festival's genuine sleepers. Its refreshing blend of energy, intelligent and snappy dialogue and star-making performances by a trio of young women make this a film to watch for.
   A day in the life of five students, "Love and Other Catastrophes" begins as Mia (Frances O'Connor, a dead-ringer for a younger Barbara Hershey) and her pal Alice (Alice Garner) are seeking a roommate for their new flat. Each has romantic woes: Mia has just broken up with her girlfriend Danni (Radha Mitchell, who looks uncannily like a blonde Elizabeth McGovern), and Alice is unsuccessfully seeking the man of her dreams. Possible candidates include sometime gigolo and womanizer Ari (Matthew Dyktynski) and shy medical student Michael (Matt Day). The women have academic frustrations as well: Alice is four years late with her thesis (topic: "Doris Day as Feminist Warrior"), and Mia becomes embroiled in a desperate bureaucratic struggle when the university forbids her to switch departments until she pays off a $663 library fine.
   "Love and Other Catastrophes" moves at such a rapid clip that even at 76 minutes it seems a bit slight (the last sequence, a four-minute video montage, feels like filler.) Nevertheless, Croghan whose shoot took just 17 days is a director with skill belying her youth. She and co-writers Helen Bandis and Yael Berhman exhibit a refreshing attitude towards sexuality the lesbianism is never debated and display a dizzying knowledge of popular culture and literature, peppering the film with intertitles quoting sources as diverse as Jane Austen and the Bee Gees. You'd be hard pressed to think of a more breezy, more original comedy of manners. Starring Frances O'Connor, Alice Garner and Radha Mitchell. Directed by Emma-Kate Croghan. Written by Emma-Kate Croghan, Yael Bergman and Helen Bandis. Produced by Stavros Efthymiou. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy. Running time: 76 min. Screened at Cannes.
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