Futile Attraction. DVD Review

Another quality film from NZ. No giant monkeys though.

Publisher: Arkles Entertainment

Tue, 6 December 2005

by: Hillelman

I'd been looking forward to seeing the New Zealand made film Futile Attraction, particularly because I've interviewed its director (Mark Prebble) - not once, but twice.

I was impressed by the amount of fortitude it took for Mark to get his film done and found him to be a really likeable dude. When the DVD of Futile Attraction Mark sent me for review arrived, I suddenly felt a brief moment of apprehension. The thought that insidiously crept into my alcohol damaged brain was, "What if, after talking about this movie so much on the site, I ended up hating it?" That would be a rather embarrassing situation. Thankfully though, as soon as I began watching the movie my concerns were quickly put to rest. I've now watched Futile Attraction a few times and can honestly say that I reckon Mark (and his cast and crew) did a top job of it.

I've got this thing I do for film reviews when it comes to explaining their plots. That is, I take the synopsis from the back of the case, rather than putting in the effort to write one myself. I mean, who in their right mind (if that description is at all accurate in my case) doesn't try to take a few shortcuts here and there? So, I've got the DVD sitting next to me and that's exactly what I'm going to do again here:

Futile Attraction is an anti-romantic comedy about a film crew making a Reality TV Show about a couple brought together by a dating agency. Unfortunately, the couple are so incompatible that the crew has to manipulate the relationship to get the footage they need for their show.

It is a clever premise, which is particularly resonant now in this age of "reality" TV shows- the majority of which feature a bunch of phoney bastards and are carefully edited and controlled to the extent that they are no more genuine than most works of fiction. Mark and co-writer Benedict Reid actually came up with the concept before the reality show craze took off, so that was really a matter of coincidence and good timing (or, if you want to be generous, you could say it was some knowledgeable foreshadowing on their behalves).

The main reason the story was constructed this way however, is because doing a mock documentary show (or "mocumentary" ala Spinal Tap) was both funny and relatively cheap to manage. I'll let Mark explain all of this in his own words, the following quote is taken from the first interview he did for us:

"We reverse engineered it - what would be easy to film? Doco style. Comedy was a given. What hasn't really been done in 'mocumentary' comedy? Relationship analysis. Who could we use? We wrote some characters around actor friends. It evolved heaps from that. Keep in mind we wrote it over 4 1/2 years. When we started it was before Blair Witch, before Survivor or any of the "reality TV" craze thing started"

The downfall of many comedy shows and movies is that they feature characters that are little more than a group of people who happen to be there while the jokes and "zaniness" are going on around them. Futile Attraction easily manages to avoid that problem.

The best comedies work so well partialy because the audience gets to know and understand the characters. Some good examples are The Simpsons, The Office and This is Spinal Tap (yes! I squeezed two mentions of one of my all time favourite movies into the one article!). As a result we feel more strongly about how those individuals react to any comedic actions or situations that arise. We know that Homer Simpson is a fat, lazy, dim-witted, yet lovable fellow who loves beer and donuts. So, when a joke comes about as a result of these character traits, it clicks right away with the viewer and is instantly way funnier than it would we be if we didn't know what kind of guy Homer was/is.

In Futile Attraction the characters are presented in a well developed fashion. You can tell that a lot of work (and some research) has gone into fleshing these people out and giving them some back-story.

The movie's two main protagonists are Randal (Peter Rutherford) and Germaine (Danielle Mason). Both characters are very well played and, although obviously somewhat exaggerated, effectively believable.

Randal is a nice, good hearted bloke, but he's also a total dork. He works as a telemarketer, seemingly unaware of how much his employer is exploiting his good nature. Using phones for his job is a big thrill for Randal though, since he's a telephone fanatic. He collects telephones and is thoroughly obsessed with them and anything that is remotely related to them. His other obsession is his mother. Although Randall is a grown man, he's a total "mummy's boy" and his life is still very much controlled by her (the mother is never actually seen in the film, which I thought was a neat touch).

Germaine is an attractive young lady who is also nice and good hearted. But she's dedicated to her political activism to such a degree that it can be almost painful to those around her. She's the "new age hippy" type, the kind of person I think most of us know at least one of.

It is perfectly obvious that these two have nothing in common and should not be romantically involved with each other. Watching them slowly figuring this out for themselves is a lot of fun.

My favourite character in Futile Attraction would have to be Dudley Earnsworth (Alistair Browning). He's the host of the documentary that's being filmed (film within a film) about Randal and Germaine. "Dudley's hobbies include arse kissing and climbing the showbiz ladder. He's a second rate rent-a-celebrity who always puts his own professional agenda and hormonal impulses ahead of the needs of the show." That description of Earnsworth is from the movies' website and I think it gives you a fair idea of what he's like. Alistair does an excellent job in the role.

The rest of the characters in Futile Attraction fit in just as well. Even the incidental ones have enough to them to allow them to stay interesting. The most recognisable member of the cast for Aussie audiences would likely be Michelle Ang, who worked on Neighbours. Ang plays Violet, the sound engineer/boom operator who sucks at her job and only has it because her father is the show's producer. Michelle seems to be having a fun time with the part. Come to think of it, the same could be said of everyone involved. Also, unlike some low budget flicks, there's no bad acting featured here, everyone is in good form.

There are some nice little extra touches throughout Futile Attraction that help add even more appeal. The slapstick style comedy that goes on behind Randal and Germaine while the oblivious crew is filming them is one such touch. Another is the little side story going on with Randal's flatmates Ian and Oscar; a couple of sci-fi loving computer geeks (I wonder if they read Buttonhole).

The DVD features some worthwhile bonus content; interviews with the cast and that sort of thing. All of it is refreshingly sincere and modest, especially compared to some of the self congratulatory stuff you see on many big commercial releases. I was particularly interested to hear about how Futile Attraction's lovely soundtrack came into being, the music certainly compliments the film very well. I haven't listened to Mark's Director's Commentary yet but I definitely will when I have the time to pay attention and (if his interviews are anything to go by) I'd say it'd be pretty cool.

There it is then- Futile Attraction, the movie that goes way back with planet Buttonhole. Now I've actually seen the thing I'd been talking about! More importantly, I totally dig it. It has strong, witty dialogue, well done observational humour and an underlying charm to help carry it all the way. You can purchase the Futile Attraction DVD by clicking here. I recommend that you do just that. You will be getting a cool and funny flick that's a bit different to the run of the mill. You'll also be supporting people who make movies simply because that's what they love to do, rather than just for fame or fortune, or the chance to regularly snort cocaine off stripper's arses.

I am a big fan of this movie, though I am somewhat biased. Regardless, Futile Attraction is a well written, original and highly entertaining film that I can happily recommend.
Feature: 9.0; Extras: 7.0

by: Hillelman





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