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   OSCAR AND LUCINDA (1997) 

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CAST
Ralph Fiennes
Cate Blanchett
Tom Wilkinson
Ciaran Hinds
Clive Russell
Barnaby Kay
Richard Roxburgh

DIRECTED BY
Gillian Armstrong

PURCHASE


DVD




Original Novel




Time: 132 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Romance/Drama

Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.


I really thought that I would like this movie. I love Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett. I love period films and yet, OSCAR AND LUCINDA just left me feeling nothing. The film concentrates more on making it's characters unusual than actually interesting that it never becomes truly engaging. The only thing I kept wondering is how much stranger are these two people going to become. Plus, I just could not believe that they were in love with each other. Blanchett has phenominal chemistry with Ralph's younger brother Joseph in ELIZABETH, but generates not a spark here. It could be the limitations of the time, but I think it was just too much quirkiness.

Oscar and Lucinda are brought together by fate and become friends because of their shared love of gambling. They are both obsessed with the thrill of winning and the illicitness of the play. Horses, dice, cards, whenever, wherever. Oscar gambles because it's the only thing he's ever been remotely good at and Lucinda is desperate to lose the inheritance she never wanted and become a "normal" person again (which she never was to begin with). Both Oscar and Lucinda are cast out of good society when their addiction becomes exposed. Thrown out of the Anglican church, where he was a reverend, Oscar is forced to accept Lucinda's hospitality. Devastated by his actions, believing he's disappointed God, he asks her to form a pact with him - no more gambling of any kind. It's the only way he will agree to stay.

Since she's already falling in love with him, she agrees. How anyone could fall for someone as emotionally stunted as Oscar is beyond me. She's no catch herself, but Oscar, who's fallen for her, thinks she is. In fact, he believes she's in love with a friend, Reverend Hasset (Hinds), who's been transferred to the other side of Australia. In an effort to prove his love to her, Oscar suggests that they send a glass church, made from one of Lucinda's designs, to her friend for his church-less congregation. She thinks he's crazy. So he bets her that it can be done by Good Friday, which is mere months away, and that he'll accompany the cargo just to make sure. They each wager their inheritances - he'll win hers if he makes it in time, she'll win his, which may not exist, if he doesn't. The challenge: He can't travel by boat because he's deathly afraid of water, so he'll have to go by land, which is rarely done and extremely dangerous.


"I dare not hope, and yet I must that through this deed I gain your trust."

Everyone thinks their plan is sheer folly. He'll be lucky to make it without getting killed, never mind getting all the pieces there unbroken. not to mention that the church is made of glass, something no one has ever seen before. It's not until he's about to leave that they declare their feelings for each other with a stolen kiss in the moonlight. Lucinda doesn't want Oscar to go, but this is his mission, his way to pay back God for his sinful behavior. Unfortunately, things get ugly along the way. Oscar becomes more weak-minded and feeble with every river crossing and loses all hope of survival when the expeditions' leader, Mr. Jeffries, ruthlessly kills a group of aborigines. This is not going at all like he planned. Jeffries turns out to be an evil man who keeps Oscar alive only for the bonus Lucinda promised him when they get to their destination. Unable to live with Jeffries atrocities towards the natives and their own men, Oscar calls him out and ends up killing him.

In the end the church does arrive on schedule, but not as planned. To get it down the final river they put it together, creating the strangest site the villagers have ever seen. The Reverend Hasset realized who the gift is from before Oscar can tell him, realizing for the first time how much Lucinda valued their friendship. In his weakened state, Oscar is seduced by a local woman, looking for a new husband, any man ever one as odd as Oscar will do. Not realizing he was played for a fool, Oscar believes he has betrayed Lucinda and that he must marry this woman. That night he goes into their little church to pray and ends up drowning, his worst nightmare, when the ropes give way and the church sinks. A sad ending to a sad little tale. He may have been a weak person but he had powerful sperm. The quickie with Miriam produces a child. Lucky for Lucinda, Miriam doesn't survive the birth. At least someone ends up happy.

Would Forrest Gump have been as interesting if he hadn't been involved in every major event of the 20th Century? I don't think so. He would have been just another slow-witted man with a boring life. The events these characters are involved in just aren't very exciting. Yes, it's unusual to try to bring a glass church across the outback of Australia. But exciting. Not really. And though they're unique characters, that doesn't mean I want to watch them for 2 hours. This film was adapted from a novel and I have a feeling that there was something more to this story, a magic to the words, that just didn't make it to the screen. It had all the elements - great actors, wonderful scenery, beautiful costumes, addiction - it just fails to capture the imagination or the heart. There's no overt passion in this film. Only when they're gambling, and those scenes aren't as many as one would think, do Fiennes or Blanchett actually show some life. It sad to see such great actors be so blah. Even if you're fans, I wouldn't recommend watching this movie, it will only make you doubt your taste.



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