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Australia / USA 1997
Directed by
Gillian Armstrong
130 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Oscar and Lucinda

Gillian Armstrong’s adaptation of the Peter Carey novel of the same name is a splendid production but dramatically unconvincing.

The film opens in the mid-1800s. Lucinda Leplastrier (Cate Blanchett) is a headstrong young woman being raised in New South Wales while in Devon, Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes) is studying to be an Anglican priest. Lucinda inherits great wealth and buys a glass factory. She goes to England to buy equipment for the factory and on the boat home meets Oscar who is heading to the colonies to start a new life. The two meet and discover their common love of gambling. And so their relationship begins.

Although the film never looks less than impressive, neither Fiennes nor Blanchett give substantial enough performances to carry the larger-than-life narrative. Had Armstrong cast an actress like a young Judy Davis, her star in her breakout film, My Brilliant Career (1979), in the lead then the supposed forthright independence of the character might have shone through, but Blanchett is too winsomely attractive and conventionally poised to convince whilst Fiennes mugs his way through his role stammering and grinning like a fool as he tries to suggest an eager, insecure young man.

Partly the problem must lie with Armstrong who seems to have been so caught up with the logistics of the production and the sheer visual beauty of it that she forgot the dramatic heart of the story, leaving the film more in the realm of a twee and rather overlong fantasy romance than the kind of Fitzcarraldo-ish epic journey it seems intended to be.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment

 

 

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