Oscar And Lucinda

on January 02, 1998 by Lisa Osborne
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   Oscar (Ralph Fiennes) and Lucinda (Cate Blanchett) are an odd pair brought together by their compulsive love of gambling and inability to fit into society. Oscar is a guilt-ridden young man who has never fully recovered from leaving home (and his repressive preacher father, played by Clive Russell) while still a child and going to live with his father's arch-rival, the Anglican Reverend Hugh Stratton (Tom Wilkinson). Dominated from an early age, he is a cowering, fidgety man with few ideas of his own who clings to his faith without really understanding it. There are two guiding forces in Oscar's life: God and gambling. To him they are not mutually exclusive; gambling is a way in which God communicates with him.
   Lucinda (Blanchett) is the fiercely independent daughter of an early feminist. After her mother's death, Lucinda satisfies her childhood passion for glass by buying the Prince Rupert Glass Works in Sydney. As a female industrialist with a obsession for gambling and a best friend (Ciaran Hinds) who's a minister, she creates scandal wherever she goes.
   The couple meet on board the Leviathan as she sails from England to Australia--an unlikely event considering Oscar's almost paralysing fear of the ocean. Unfortunately, this is only one aspect of the plot which seems implausible. The pair's ultimate mission to transport a glass church (in pieces) across the Australian outback in the 1800s seems more ridiculous than romantic.
   The lead characters, although well acted, are not sympathetic. It's hard to resist wishing that a bolt of lightning would smite Oscar during the many prayer scenes in which he catalogs his sins. Based on the Booker prize-winning novel by Peter Carey, "Oscar and Lucinda" might have worked better had it been updated before it was brought to the bigscreen.    Starring Ralph Fiennes, Cate Blanchett, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Richard Roxburgh and Clive Russell. Directed by Gillian Armstrong. Written by Laura Jones. Produced by Robin Dalton and Timothy White. A Fox Searchlight release. Period drama. Rated R for a scene of sexuality and for brief violence. Running time: 132 min.
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