Love Serenade (1996)

“Would you like to come in and ease my loneliness?”

Set in the tiny backwater Australian town of Sunray, the marvellous film Love Serenade, from writer/director Shirley Barrett is the story of what happens when a single man moves next door to two strange sisters.

love serenadeThe film begins with middle-aged has-been DJ Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov) driving to Sunray while he listens to (and mouths) the seductive songs of Barry White. Sherry’s career has definitely taken a turn for the worst. He used to work in Brisbane and apparently had a short stint on television, but now on his third divorce, Sherry is taking over Sunray’s one room shack of a dilapidated radio station. Both Sherry and his car have seen better days, but his name is big enough to excite hairdresser Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Firth) when she notices a strange car with Sherry’s custom plates sitting in the driveway next door.

Vicki-Ann, who lives with her bizarre sister, Dimity (Miranda Otto) wastes no time spinning fantasies about Sherry. While she warns Dimity off Sherry saying that celebrities need their privacy, she tries to strike up a  relationship with Sherry almost immediately by ferrying over various home-made dishes. Sherry, however, greets Vicki-Ann’s enthusiastic welcome into the neighbourhood with cold disdain.

Sherry begins visiting the town’s drab Chinese restaurant owned by Albert (John Alansu) a quirky character who’s  “embraced nudism.” It so happens that Dimity works here as a waitress, and while she tells Sherry that Vicki-Ann is “looking for a boyfriend,” Sherry starts paying attention to Dimity.

Love Serenade is a very quirky film. The DVD cover photo may make you think you’re about to watch a romance, but this is a highly entertaining black comedy. Sunray is a sleepy town in which everyone knows everyone else, and there’s nothing to do. In another town, Sherry would be a joke. He’s a sleazy playboy whose cheesy pick up lines show that he’s been listening to a bit too much Barry White, but to the Hurley sisters, he seems exotic. He spouts glib meaningless phrases about love delivered with a weighty tone as if he has seriously pondered philosophy, and both of the Hurley sisters fall for him for different reasons. The marriage-obsessed Vicki-Ann thinks she’s found a husband, and dowdy, awkward Dimity can’t wait to shed her virginity. Lucky for her, Sherry says that “virgins are my specialty.”

Meanwhile Albert remains stubbornly unimpressed by Sherry, his views on life and his choice of music. Sherry thinks that he’s hit the mother-lode when he moves in next door to the Hurley sisters, but what he doesn’t realize is while he imagines he’s “setting them free,” in reality he unleashes them. The relationship between the sisters seems just quirky and could even perhaps be excused by Sunray, but it becomes all to clear that there’s a pathology just under the surface. Vicki-Ann’s stories become more and more exaggerated and Dimity becomes obsessed with the aged Lothario.

The character of Sherry steals the film. Looking like some flashback from the disco days, he’s still trying to hold the line that he’s a desirable male. The film captures the weirdness of this tiny sun-baked town with its wide open landscapes and faded buildings. If you like Australian comedy, then do check out this film and Walk The Talk, another Barrett film.

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