Love Serenade

on August 01, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
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   In this quirky debut by writer/director Shirley Barrett, two Australian sisters fall for their new neighbor, a brooding and self-obsessed radio deejay. Barrett's offbeat style and dark humor nabbed her the Camera D'Or at Cannes, but the film is not for all tastes.
   Arriving in the country town of Sunray, the fortysomething, thrice- divorced Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov) takes over the local radio station. Before long, sisters Dimity (Miranda Otto), 21, and Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith), 26, have swapped sibling loyalty for bitter sibling rivalry. Both desperate for dates, each of the young women begins to pay visits to Ken; before long, Dimity and Vicki-Ann are responding to Ken's request to "Take it off, baby. Take it all off."
   Both Otto and Frith nicely underplay their parts, with the real scenery chewing left to Shevtsov. Vain, manipulative womanizer that he is, Ken manages to exert considerable pull over the two naive girls, and Shevtsov seems to relish every moment. Less successful, however, are Steven Jones-Evans' production design and Mandy Walker's cinematography. Shot in off-putting sepia-tinged tones, the world of "Love Serenade" is dishwater-dull, an incongruous juxtaposition to Barrett's capricious dialogue and lively protagonists. And, though it boasts a soundtrack including '70s soul classics and a producing credit by Jan Chapman (who also oversaw "The Piano"), "Love Serenade" feels more like a slow hymn: Its 100 minutes feel more like two hours. Starring Miranda Otto, Rebecca Frith and George Shevtsov. Directed and written by Shirley Barrett. Produced by Jan Chapman. A Miramax release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 100 min. Won the Camera D'Or for Best First Film at Cannes; opens stateside in New York and Los Angeles in spring 1997
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