Love and Other Catastrophes

Frances O'Conner is Mia in Love and other Catastrophes

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R-language

This little Australian film made by a 23-year-old film school student (Emma-Kate Croghan) for an incredible $50,000 using a mostly novice crew, dramatizes the lives of five university students whose existence is the typical collegiate blancing act of fultime studies, parttime jobs, socializing, and trying to find love and/or intimacy in right or wrong places. Well, maybe they're not all that typical; one of them, Ari, the sexiest and at least superficially the deepest thinker, also has "male prostitute" as his parttime job. Another of the quintet is a lesbian whose fear of commitment has put her intimate relationship in jeopardy.

Set on a liberal arts campus, it juxtaposes the values and worldviews of the film school majors with their peers in med school, the classics, and technology, and concludes that basically they're all looking for pretty much the same things: meaning in the future and what passes for fun in the present. They're generally willing to settle for partying and getting laid on the way to finding something more meaningful. A romance with references to Doris Day as "feminist warrior" (the subject of the central character's thesis), it never takes itself too seriously, but manages to inject enough seriousness to let us see the characters as icons whom we care about despite the existential vacuum of their lives.

Somewhere in here there's a clear statement that man is the measure of all things (that statement is in most contemporary literature, of course, but not always so clear). And true to the romantic form, it says that lovebeing with the appropriate partner, that is—is the faith that makes being human worthwhile. Several references to Ari as the Warren Beatty of the campus suggest that Shampoo—one of my all-time favorite films—is being recalled here. For $50,000—heck, even for the $1 million Fox Searchlight paid for the distribution rights by today's movie production standards, this is a knockoff well worth buying.

Photo by the film's distributor

1997, Jon Kennedy