Russian Doll

on June 15, 2001 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
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   An occasionally bright little nugget from down under, "Russian Doll" charms with its gentle ribbing of the traumas of modern romance, but despite an engaging soundtrack loaded with jazz and torch song classics (including a breathy tune by Marilyn Monroe), this tale of infidelity, friendship and improbable love fails to get beyond the been-there, seen-that, prompting not much more than a few empathetic smiles.

   Harvey (Hugo Weaving), a would-be novelist, realizes that his thorough research skills make him far better suited for detective work and so, to pay the rent, he decides on an abrupt career change. All too soon, Harvey finds himself drowning in cynicism as an infidelity specialist--a malaise that's worsened when he unexpectedly discovers his own fiancée on the other side of his telephoto lens in an illicit daytime romp. Turning for support to his best friend Ethan (David Wneham), whom he idealizes for his perfect marriage, Harvey receives a double whammy when he finds that Ethan has begun an affair with a perky Russian émigré, Katia (an effervescent Natalia Novikova). An e-mail order bride who arrives in Australia to find her prospective bridegroom dead of a sudden heart attack, Katia apparently just wants to have fun and maybe get her visa extended as well. Ethan's scheme to keep Katia safely within his reach while still hoodwinking his match-making wife Miriam proves the last straw for the deflated Harvey.

   Nigerian-born Aussie Weaving (best known Stateside as the unremitting Agent Smith in "The Matrix") brings an amiable ruefulness to Harvey, a romantic's romantic who's all but given up of ever finding the Real Thing. His dulled resignation regarding love contrast nicely with Ethan's brazen conniving and Katia's earthy practicality. Co-writer and producer Allanah Zitserman's resolve to explore the world of Russian-Jewish émigrés gives the film its real edge of distinction and provides a couple of fun moments, but neither that nor Weaving's affability is enough to get over the films stretches of predictability.    Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalia Novikova and David Wenham. Directed by Stravos Kazantzidis. Written by Stravos Kazantzidis and Allanah Zitserman. Produced by Allanah Zitserman and Hugo Weaving. A Lot 47 release. Romantic comedy. Rated R for some sexuality and language. Running time: 88 min.

Tags: Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalia Novikova, David Wenham, Stravos Kazantzidis, Written by Stravos Kazantzidis and Allanah Zitserman. Produced by Allanah Zitserman, Hugo Weaving, A Lot 47 release, Romantic comedy, heart attack, death, romance, friendship, novelist
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