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By Clint Morris | March 30, 2004

Having checked out the film at hand with a theatre full of school teachers, it was pretty easy to foretell what kind of film we’d be seeing. No doubt it would be something pretty appropriate for school age children; it’d have very little if no sex, no language, probably no use of drugs or alcohol and predominantly, no violence. Therefore, “Loves Brother” could otherwise be then one of two things, the literary to celluloid equal of “Looking for Alibrandi”, or, ah, this year’s “Dad and Dave: On Our Selection” – Thankfully its slants towards the former – a spot-on recreation of the times and culture of an Italian Community, circa 1950.

Set in Australia during the 1950s, the film centres on two brothers and the semi love-triangle that develops between them and a beautiful Italian stranger. Angelo (Ribisi) is the less confident and less attractive of the two and is getting a little saddened by constant rejections from available women in Italy. Fearing another turndown, he inserts a picture of his better looking brother Gino (Garcia) in the next letter – and wouldn’t you know it, she says yes and packs her bags for down under. When Rosetta (Warner) arrives she gets a bit of a shock to discover the real identity of the man she’s supposed to be marrying, but of course that doesn’t mean she can’t ogle off Gino. And Gino, who’s apparently engaged to be married, naturally has his heart kick-started.

The plot of “Loves Brother” isn’t much. It really is pretty emaciated, and for the most part, the characters, and most of what they get up to, are largely improbable. That includes the rather strained relationship between Gino and Rosetta. It all feels a little too rushed, like someone wanted to skip a beat to get to the finish line earlier. In some ways, it’s a script that probably could’ve been adapted to any culture, any time, anywhere….the likes of which might even suit a contemporary teenage comedy, especially with the whole ‘mistaken identity’ sub-plot.

Having said that, there is still a lot to like about Jan Sardi’s film. The locations are fantastic; very fitting, the depictions of the Italian culture and people are outstanding and our three leads are nothing if not likeable. Adam Garcia is a mesmerising magnet that pulls your peepers to the screen. Charismatic, funny and ultimately someone you could imagine a young girl like Rosetta would fall for, he’s the movie’s finest asset. Also good is Amelia Warner, a beautiful and exquisite presence, that adds a perfect dollop of allure and credibility to the role of the rather-lose Rosetta.

But Giovanni Ribisi? What were the filmmakers thinking there? Though quite amusing once you get use to his unorthodox turn, Ribisi is more exasperating to watch than anything. His accent is a mixture of “Sling Blade” and strained mumble, his performance border lining on something so over the top it looks like Angelo belongs in a totally different movie. A local actor might have done wonders with this role. Still, as the film progresses, Ribisi becomes more and more endurable, and even – but not completely – slightly ample.

Whilst nothing outstanding, and perceptibly nothing that’s going to pull the Australian Film Industry out of it’s doldrums, “Loves Brother” is still a lovely flick for the whole family and it shouldn’t take too much swaying for the young females of the crowd – with Garcia front row centre – to enjoy the syrupy hour and a half on show. Oh and kids, it’ll be quite a welcome half-day away from school.

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