Love takes Jessica Flowers (Kathy Luu) by surprise when she’s made “best woman” at her best friend’s wedding where she meets videographer, Justin Judd (Damien Sato). Little does she know, that he’s not single after they kiss, but fate keeps drawing them together. RHAPSODY OF LOVE is the interwoven story of three couples, who are at different stages of their lives, trying to follow their dreams.
There’s newly-weds, Ben Lin (Benjamin Hanly) and Natasha Booker (Jessica Niven).There’s Jessica’s awkward and career-driven sister Jade (Joy Hopwood). And then there’s the love triangle between Justin Judd, Victoria Steer (Lily Stewart) and Jessica.
Writer-director-actor Joy Hopwood, has even more talents that those in her multi-hyphenate job title. Many of the films we see at the cinema, have big studios and large teams behind them, but Hopwood’s hand can be observed in the myriad of choices and moments that made this movie. She is a filmmaker who has created, what she calls, the first Asian-Australian rom-com. And it undoubtedly hits this target. The material itself is clearly the work of someone who is in love with the rom-com format and genre. There’s even a scene in which sisters Jessica and Jade spend time choosing a DVD from Jade’s extensive collection. (It includes the director’s previous feature THE SCRIPT OF LIFE).
The director has chosen minimal references to any specific Asian culture. The fact that the leads, and some of the support cast, are Asian-Australians is unusual; I observe this as a Eurasian film reviewer who always notices the faces in Aussies movies who remind me of those in my own family. The characters here are a diverse lot, their main link, story-wise, is that they are thirty-something middle-class, looking for love and trying to define themselves through their careers.
RHAPSODY OF LOVE begins with an extended sequence which is a nice encapsulation of a certain type of well-appointed modern wedding. We are introduced to the cast here and get to know something of their back story and quirks. There are numerous jokes laid down here and the movie declares itself as a piece about contradictions in communication and the need maintain social status. It also hits on a sub-theme taken up by Ben Hanly’s character in which anxiety and its effects are explored.
The dialogue is occasionally weirdly stilted. However, the performances of Luu, Hanly, Sato and Stewart will draw the audience into the story. Luu’s energy and choices particularly lift the second half. The chemistry between her and Sato also goes up several notches in these sequences. An interesting note for Western Australians is that a good number of the cast did their training in Perth at WAAPA or Edith Cowan University. So, let’s keep funding tertiary education, people!
Having said that, the film was shot in Sydney and the city looks beautiful. I was even reminded of the earlier Aussie romance-drama THANK GOD HE MET LIZZIE (1997) on several occasions. Hopwood’s admits to being influenced by the work of Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers. There is also something of a FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL vibe evident.
RHAPSODY OF LOVE is an independently funded, produced and distributed feature film which has some of the budget short-comings of this kind of set-up, but is also clearly the work of an enthusiastic team who want to create a contemporary rom-com, which is a genre that this country doesn’t tend to embrace when the movies are home-grown. The end-result is a fun and charming movie which will please the audience for love stories that work out. (Spoilers!). Although it uses the rom-com formula, it also has some unusual scenes and twists because of it has a beating, indie heart.
Running time: 85 minutes. Rating: 6.5/10