Review: “Unconditional Love”

P.J Hogan and Jocelyn Moorhouse are two of Australia’s greatest filmmaking talents. Between them they’ve been responsible for such films as “Muriel’s Wedding”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, “How to Make an American Quilt”, the acclaimed “Proof” with Russell Crowe, and the upcoming big-budgeted “Peter Pan” epic.

So its a wonder why this quirky effort of the duo slipped through the radar and has been sitting in New Line’s vaults for years. Admittedly ‘Love’ is a bit of a jumbled mess. Part serious reflective drama, part murder mystery, part action thriller, part over the top slapstick comedy, etc. It goes in all sorts of directions without ever really comfortably fitting in any.

The pace is aching slow in the first half with too much dull drama, the second half picks up though. When it focuses on both the mystery and comedy elements, it works wonders. Performances are excellent with the whole cast doing impressive work. This is a tour-de-force for Kathy Bates who continues on a roll with all her work. Ditto for Everett whose more introspective than usual but its one of his best parts since his previous teaming with Hogan.

The real find though is Meredith Eaton, the real life dwarf actress who plays Bates impulsive sassy sister – this is one of those unforgettable supporting characters who’ll you remember long after the rest of the film has vanished (she squeezes in a quite funny “Don’t Look Now” gag reference too). Aykroyd is a little disappointing, Pryce has fun crooning in his various scenes, whilst smaller parts from Jack Noseworthy and hunky Peter Saarsgard to the deliciously bitchy Lynn Redgrave are all good fun.

Like I mentioned the highlights here, all of which happen when it focuses on the mystery of the ‘Crossbow Killer’ and the comedy, are as good as those in both aforementioned ‘Wedding’ films. From Julie Andrews poking fun at herself, to the big action chase/finale set in and around the creepy sewer like environs of Chicago’s cross-river bridge walkways – about 30 minutes of this 90 minute flick is superb entertainment but the trouble is the rest of it really drags it down.

There’s all sorts of singing numbers with “Can’t Smile Without You” especially getting some memorable renditions, and a sweet score. The film has a very cinematic visual look which makes it look like it was done on a far bigger budget than it probably had, the production values and so on are excellent all round.

It’s a real shame though, this is one of those movies which feels like if they had spent more time on developing the script with a clearer idea of where it was headed, and shot it with a bit more pacing this could’ve been a comedy classic. As such its a enjoyable little film, certainly a cut above the direct-to-video treatment its getting.