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USA/Australia/UK 1997
Directed by
Bruce Beresford
122 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Paradise Road

Bruce Beresford’s film might be described, not altogether unfairly, as Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1982) meets The Full Monty (1997) under the shade of The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957). As Beresford directed from his own script and he had a top line cast as well as his regular director of photography, Peter James, to work with, the blame for this egregiously hackneyed effort seems to lay squarely at his feet. That it is based on real events only makes it all the more of a travesty.

Reflecting the multinational nature of the production, Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Julianna Marguilies and Jennifer Ehle (USA), Pauline Collins (UK) together with Cate Blanchett and quite a few familiar Australian faces (once leading lady Wendy Hughes is relegated to a minor role) headline a largely female cast to tell the story of a group of women who were held prisoner in a Japanese internment camp after the fall of Singapore during World War II but survived the brutal conditions by forming a choral group under the leadership of Adrienne Partiger (Close) a classically-trained musician.

As the three films already cited demonstrate how readily this kind of material lends itself to sentimentality, particularly of the patriotic kind (although despite one particularly sadistic individual  the portrayal of the Japanese is slightly mollified, at least insofar as it wants to show that they were not all evil personified). Instead of backing off from the tendency, however, Beresford piles cliché upon cliché from the get-go and does not let up until the film’s end, an unnecessarily lengthy 122 minutes later. The individual performances are decent enough (though why we needed Frances McDormand playing a German doctor is not clear. Surely there are plenty of German actresses who speak English well enough) but there is really nothing  for them to do but follow the well-worn moves that Beresford has allotted them. Given his C.V. he should have done much better than this.




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