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USA 2006
Directed by
Daniel Lapaine
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

48 Shades Of Brown

Synopsis: 16-year-old Daniel Bancroft (Richard Wilson) moves into a house with his 20-something Aunty Jacq (Robin McLeavy) to finish his final year at school and falls for her friend Naomi (Emma Lung).

Few people would know that there are 48 shades of brown. Few people are going to care after having seen this adaptation of Nick Earls’ award winning novel of the same name. The notion is a nice conceit, one that no doubt worked well on paper, suggesting a wistful poignancy and neatly bringing together the psychologies of perception and love, the latter, as we know, being in the eye of the beholder. Sadly, Daniel Lapaine, who also wrote the screenplay, fails to give this bounty a worthy cinematic life.

The most pressing fault is with the conception of the film. For a teen romance it seems to have been envisaged by a senior citizen, based on his or her own memories. The outcome is more Hotel Sorrento than Dogs In Space. The spotlessly clean share house, which is the principal location of events, is decorated in some kind of retro/ethnic décor that would suit your 50 year-old Aunt Jacq. The problem here is that Aunt Jacq is in her early 20s and one is regularly asking how these three young people (Naomi has some kind of job) finance their lifestyle and who the hell does the housework as none of the characters (a punk lesbian, a winsome hippy and a school student) have profiles which suit.

If the setting seems out of kilter, the characters themselves also behave with uncharacteristic maturity. They have intelligent, reflective conversations and behave towards each other with what at first seems to be studied politeness but which, one eventually realizes, is supposed to be how they behave all the time. Richard Wilson here epitomizes the blandest of bland “nice young men”, with Naomi and Aunt Jacq, a couple of solicitous mother hens who forbear his inoffensive gaucheries. Lapaine’s attempts to leaven this atmosphere of civilized boredom with antics of Dan’s best mate, Chris (Nick Donaldson), and Phil, (Michael Booth), the socially-challenged landlord, are untenably forced and generally tiresome. If Wilson and McLeavy are OK-ish in their parts, Emma Lung, who was infinitely more credible as a dyslexic young woman in Peaches (2005), is a decided weakness. With her blond tresses and cheese cloth dresses I assume she is supposed to be some kind of gamine Hilary Duff type but looks more mid-cycle Goldie Hawn and not only seems dim-witted but suggests absolutely nothing that would attract young Dan. Unless we are supposed to be seeing her through his love-struck eyes, but if so Lapaine fails to make it apparent.

If this film had been made 30, even 20, years ago we might indulge its ham-fisted naiveté, find it intermittently effective and put it down to the inexperience of our film industry. Today, as a feature film offering, it is sadly inexcusable and despite the no doubt sincere efforst of those involved, is destined to have a short screen life before drifting into the doldrums of afternoon television programming.




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