Wednesday, 3 March 2010
FILM REVIEW: SEPARATION CITY
Now Showing in Limited Release
This New Zealand comic-drama about the sexual and domestic entanglements of a group of 30-somethings, mostly ex-pats, living and working in Wellington will have audiences charmed and frustrated in equal measure. That's due partly to its depiction of supposedly smart people doing silly but amusing things. But mostly its the he said-she said structure, which ultimately favours the male point of view, which had me annoyed more than amused.
The He is Simon (Joel Edgerton), a speechwriter for a NZ politician. Simon is experiencing a marital rut: his wife, Pam (Danielle Cormack), is disinterested in sex and when they do manage to do it, he can barely keep from finishing early. The She is Katrien (Rhona Mitra), a German cellist who followed her husband, Klaus (Thomas Kretschmann), to New Zealand. But Klaus, an artist, is incapable of not following his penis wherever it wants to go, and Katrien, catching him in the act, decides to separate.
Katrien is friends with Pam and her sudden separation has a two-fold effect: Simon suddenly realizes that Katrien is an attractive woman who may be open to an affair, while Katrien thinks a sensitive, quiet man like Simon may be just what she needs. And this was my major problem with Paul Middleditch's film: why would a woman who has just been devastated by a cheating husband choose as her lover the husband of her best friend?
As stated, Tom Scott's screenplay features voice-over monologues throughout by both Simon and Katrien but it is Simon who gets the majority of it. We're never really told why Katrien would pursue her best friend's husband nor why she seems oblivious to the consequences. Nor is it explained why Simon, who is also fancied by a work colleague, is so appealing to the women folk.
Not that Edgerton is unattractive but Simon's a bit of a soft cock. His friend Harry (Les Hill), a political journalist, however, may be a sexist pig but he's also funny. He's a bad boy but he knows it, and tellingly, he advises Simon against pursuing his desire for Katrien.
Many complications and misunderstandings ensue before the potential affair does or does not happen, inducing both laughter and cringes. Like I said, you'll be charmed as well as frustrated. And for all that it gets right, I still couldn't shake my dismay at the film's seemingly 'boys will be boys' attitude.