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Friday, May 31, 2002

Did I ever claim to be an expert on relationships? Far from it, quite the opposite, not in the least. In fact, I watched a movie tonight that told me more about relationships than I've probably learned in my actual living, breathing life. That's just how pathetically unqualified I am to give an opinion, much less advice, on the subject. Clear?

When I found the red Netflix envelope in my mailbox this afternoon, I ripped it open (as I always do) to see what was inside. I remember watching previews of Lantana, but I can't say they made me want to see it. Something made me decide to move it to the top of my rental queue, though, so here it was.

It's a mystery story, yes, but that isn't even the main focus of the film as it unfolds, and it's not what you take away from it when it's over. It's about the interwoven lives of various couples (and potential couples), and what makes some relationships work and others fail. We see the shades of success and failure between those extremes.

It's a mystery that's even better the second time through, when you don't have to worry about that aspect of the story. Then you can concentrate on seeing how these characters struggle with staying not just passionate but even interested in a relationship, where issues of trust and communication clutter the path that leads to happiness.

People can either overcome their flaws and put forth the effort to make a fragile relationship work, or they can give in and let it crumble. The characters in this movie are mature enough to have history behind them, the kind we call "baggage," but which is really the gradual accumulation of petty slights, misunderstandings and convenient lies that build up over time.

What I like best in Lantana was how well-shaded the characters are, thanks to the sharp writing and direction, and the heartfelt portrayals by the mostly Australian cast. The only people who are at all interesting are the ones who have a range of complexities battling within themselves. You know, like the real human beings you deal with every day in your life.

I suppose if I didn't know a little something about relationships, even if it's only mostly second-hand, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate the movie so much.


One rose blooming. It looks out of place.

If you plan to see Lantana, whatever you do don't watch the trailer first. And if you've seen the U.S. theatrical trailer, try to forget it, because it (a) gives away too much of the movie, and (2) portrays the movie as something it's not. That's all I can say without falling into the same trap of giving too much away.

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