Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Via Satellite

Carol Dunn is swimming for NZ at the Olympics and doing unexpectedly well. The TV is talking of her as a medal hope, and are starting to take an interest in the Dunn family. Identical twin sister Chrissy (both played by Danielle Cormack) is happy enough to be recognised as Carol's sister especially if recognition comes with a free beer, but she is embarrassed by the idea that the rest of the family will be seen on national TV in all its looser glory.

There is prissy big sister Jen (Rima Te Wiata) trying to get pregnant and jellous of pregnant, flirty, but unattached, middle sister Lyn. In the middle trying ineffectually to make her daughters play nice, is slightly ditsy Mum -- who treats the TV people like royalty, bemusing the TV host with a curtsey! Rounding out the family is Jen's severely henpecked husband Ken (Tim Balme) is an electrician whose incompetence is matched by his over confidence.

Little wonder that Chissy has got it into her head that she and Carol were adopted -- they couldn't possibly be related to this mad bunch. Set in Wellington, there is plenty of the city to see as Crissy spends half the film running away from situations she can't handle; starting with the previous night's one-night stand with a guy (Karl Urban) who turns out to be the TV cameraman.

The plot is surprisingly complicated for a comedy and comes with an excellent twist at the end that Rima Te Wiata brings off very well. In fact all the cast throw themselves into their parts with relish, while being completely believable.

In the 1990s sport and television were dear to the hearts of most Kiwis. Given how we react when we caught by a TV camera scanning a stadium crowd they still are today. But in other ways Via Satellite is blast from the past, even though 1998 was only 9 years ago, some of the suburban interiors, clothes and attitudes would be more at home in the Telethon era than the latte era. But this distance in time makes it easier for us to laugh at ourselves.

Did I mention that there is some excellent pre-1980's suburban decore? It is worth hunting this film down on DVD and renting it.

Ian's rating: 4/5

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