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Australia 2000
Directed by
Stavros Kazantzidis
87 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Russian Doll

Is the name Stavros Kazantzidis a psuedonym for Woody Allen? You'd be forgiven for thinking so after sitting down to watch this Aussie comedy, but no, Kazantzidis is a real person (although sometimes trading under the surname Efthymiou). He was credited with the story for the indie hit, Love and Other Catastrophes, and on the strength of its success as writer-director got to inflict True Love and Chaos (1997) and as writer Strange Planet (1999) on us.

Fortunately he appears to have realized that originality is not his strong suit and turned to the Allen oeuvre for his material. He had to change the location from Manhattan to Bondi Beach and get Hugo Weaving (who also played the lead in True Love and Chaos), to play the part the master usually reserves for himself but they are about the only discernible differences from the genuine article. The result is an entertaining romantic comedy, with Weaving as the nervous, guilt-ridden central character (who dresses in tones of brown and talks about his life to an off-screen psychiatrist), a brassy Russian love interest (think Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite), plenty of middle-class relationship problems, a Jewish wedding and lots of catchy jazz songs on the soundtrack.

How much of this Allen-cloning is attributable to Kazantzidis and how much to his co-writer, Allanah Zitserman, I can't say, but it is surprisingly well-done and as an Allen fan, I liked the result. Performances all round are good with Sacha Horler marvellous in her brief appearances as a Russian man-eater, although Weaving's delivery is sometimes stilted as the script tries too-hard to be funny (but then what Allen script doesn't).




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