Nothing but a Farce

The second most important room in their houses is the boudoir, so the sophisticated French are good at sex farce. If anything, the warm-blooded Italians are even better. The occasional American moviemaker--Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen--can turn the trick, too, wedding absurdity to desire and coming up with dark carnal mirth.

However, the Australians are not good at sex farce. At least not yet. Not if we are to judge by a clunky, flat-footed piece of business called Hotel de Love, which unfolds in an awful honeymoon retreat featuring gaudy theme suites called "African Safari" and "Garden of Eden" and which underscores the rougher-hewn aspects of culture Down Under.

The perpetrator here is a young Aussie fiction writer (and rookie director) named Craig Rosenberg, whose comic method consists of beating his audience over the head with canned ham until they start laughing. If your taste runs to rapid-fire conversations in which the word "penis" is repeated two dozen times, or to hopelessly corny piano players belting out love songs in hotel lobbies, this may be the comedy for you. If brides in their wedding gowns and grooms in their monkey suits copulating on the carpet in full view of their fellow guests is your idea of satire, have at it, mate. However. Those who've moved beyond the Three Stooges/ Benny Hill stage might care to look elsewhere.

Okay. A spot of plot. At seventeen, rival twin brothers Stephen (Simon Bossell) and Rick (Aden Young) Dunne fall for the same girl, Melissa (Saffron Burrows) at a party. Lunkheaded but aggressive Rick outjumps his sensitive, writerly brother (Good morning, Mr. Rosenberg) and beds the beauty. She returns to her native England. Then everybody's reunited ten years later, old passions intact--in the blaring, kitschy hotel of the title. Throw in the Dunne brothers' long-bickering parents (Julia Blake, Ray Barrett), Melissa's goofy fiance, Norman (Peter O'Brien), and a pretty palm reader called Alison (Pippa Grandison), and you've got a complete set of caricatures.

Rosenberg calls his film a "romantic comedy for the Nineties," but that might be overstating the case. Terminally confused people with almost nothing interesting to say lurching in and out of one another's overdecorated hotel rooms may be Rosenberg's idea of "romantic comedy for the Nineties." And the boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back cliches on which he builds the whole thing may be something new to him, but the rest of the world has seen it all a hundred times before.

If many folks in this hemisphere take to this reheated stuff--or to Rosenberg's crude borrowings from the Marx Brothers and The Graduate--some of us will be pretty surprised. Said simply, Hotel de Love is to authentic romantic farce as flat beer is to the sparkle in a flute of champagne.


Hotel de Love.
Written and directed by Craig Rosenberg. With Aden Young, Saffron Burrows, Simon Bossell, Pippa Grandison and Julia Blake.


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