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By Ron Wells | July 19, 2001

At this point, Australian actor Hugo Weaving doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. He’s already proven he can play a convincing drag queen (“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”) or some kind of Hong Kong version of Tommy Lee Jones (“The Matrix”). Now that he’s taken the time to also produce one of his own starring vehicles, he’s shown that he is his country’s answer to… uh, Ben Stiller.
This is a romantic comedy about not being able to get what you want until you might actually want the right thing. Katia (Natalia Novikova) understands. All she ever wanted was a Jewish wedding, but despite her looks and extremely outgoing personality, relationships never seem to work for her in her native Russia. Out of frustration, she goes to a Jewish matchmaker who finds her a prospective husband in Australia. Unfortunately, she arrives down under only to find him quite dead.
For Harvey (Weaving), life revolves around romantic betrayal and breakups. As a private investigator, his entire caseload involves videotaping errant spouses in the act of cheating. He believes he may have at last found true love in Alison (Helen Dallimore), until surveillance of a cheating husband proves that he’s been cheating with Harvey’s girlfriend. If only he could find someone like the wife of his quite successful best friend Ethan (David Wenham). They seem to have everything: the kid, the home, and the life. That is, until Ethan happens upon Katia, crying from the loss of her would-be husband. He quickly falls in love her. Unfortunately, she’s going to have to leave the country unless she marries somebody. Of course Harvey can usually be talked into just about anything… yeah, you can see where this is going. Naturally, Harvey and Katia take an instant disliking to each other, but they just might come around.
The outcome of this story never really seems in doubt, but the enjoyment comes from how you get there. The Russian doll of the title refers not only to Katia but to those hollow Russian dolls that open up to reveal another doll, which in turn opens to reveal another, and so on. It’s all a rather blatant metaphor for how people in relationships need to peel away the layers of each other to reach the gooey center. The movie itself feels like some kind of Farrelly brothers movie where they put sincerity in place of all the a*s jokes. It’s still kind of wacky, just not so mocking of its characters. The viewing experience won’t likely change your life, but it’s a good date flick. The only lesson to take away is that it doesn’t hurt to occasionally loosen up and just go with the flow. You don’t always know what you need until fate shoves it in your face.

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