Thank God He Met Lizzie

The love of your life. Isn't always the one you marry.

Cast

Richard Roxburgh........Guy Jamieson
Cate Blanchett........Lizzie
Frances O'Connor........Jenny
Linden Wilkinson.........Poppy
John Gaden..........Dr. O'Hara
Genevieve Mooy..........Mrs. Jamieson
Michael Ross..........Mr. Jamieson
Melissa Ippolito.........Catriona younger
Elena Pavli..............Catriona older
Craig Rasmus..........Dominic
Rhett Walton...........Tony
Jeanette Cronin..........Yvette
Arthur Angle...........George
Wahid Dona............Angelo
Celia Ireland............Cheryl
Adrian Barnes.............Father Montgomery
Deborah Kennedy.......June
Mary Acres...........Auntie Dulcie
Jack Koman ...........Raoul
Jonathan Biggins............Darren
Jane Turner..............Ann
Heather Mitchell............Melanie
Toni Moran...........Clare
Helen Thomson...........Emma

Crew

Director.............Cherie Nowlan
Writer................Alexandra Long
Producer............Jonathan Shteinman
Co-Producer............Carol Hughes
Original Music.........Martin Armiger
Cinematography.........Kathryn Milliss
Editing.............Suresh Ayyar
Casting............Ann Robinson
Production Design........Clarissa Patterson
Art Direction............Michael Iacono
Costume Design..........Edie Kurzer
Production Management......Robert Graham
First Assistant Director.......P.J. Voeten
Second Assistant Director......John Martin
Scenic Artist............Richard Baldwin
Set Dresser.............Sam Cook

Company Credits
Production Companies
Stamen Films Pty. Ltd. [au]
The Australian Film Commission [au]
The New South Wales Film and Television Office [au]
Distributors
Beyond (International)
First Look Pictures Releasing [us]
REP Distribution [au] (Australia)
Special Effects
Animal Logic (title design)
Alternative Titles
The Wedding Party (US)

Rating
M 15+

Release Dates
Australia: November 20th, 1997
Singapore: October 3rd, 1998
Iceland: August 10th 2000 (video)
US: November, 2001. Released as The Wedding Party (video)
[Dates provided by www.imdb.com]

Box Office Figures

Opening: $113,879
Final: $565,747

[Figures provided by www.moviemarshall.com]

Awards

1997

Won: AFI Award- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett

Nominated: AFI Award- Best Achievement in Costume Design
Edie Kurzer

AFI Award- Best Achievement in Editing
Suresh Ayyar

AFI Award- Best Achievement in Production Design
Clarissa Patterson

AFI Award- Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Frances O'Connor
1998

Won: FCCA Award- Best Supporting Actor- Female
Cate Blanchett
Nominated: FCCA Award- Best Actor- Female
Frances O'Connor

[Award information provided by www.us.imbd.com]

Interviews

Interviews with the cast were somewhat sparse. I found most to be with the writer Alexandra Long. Only one I found was with director Cherie Nowlan, while none were found with the actors and actresses.

Greg King talks weddings and relationships with Alexandra Long, screenwriter of the new local romantic comedy, Thank God He Met Lizzie. In the interview she quotes the line to sum it all up, "We never know when we're really happy; we just recognise it after the fact."
-Greg King, http://netau.com.au (1997)

"I feel movie is an actual women's film. Unlike the typical woman's film made by men about what men think women talk about, it deals with the real life that both Alexandra and I deal with everyday."
-Peter Thompson, ninemsn.com, (1997)

Further interviews can be found at:

http://www.alphalink.com.au/~pjh/f461tha.html
http://www.killermovies.com/t/thankgodhemetlizzie/
http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_interviews


Reviews
I found a relatively large amount of reviews on the movie. The only problem was that many said very similar things. They all praised the cast and heralded the movie as a feel good comedy with a somewhat bleak ending. Additionally, many of those I found were not from credible movie critics, rather just personal opinion.
"With warmth and rich generosity of spirit, this subtle and honestly written local film explores such emotional issues as love, the search for happiness, commitment and relationships in this cynical era."
-Peter Thompson, ninemsn.com (1997)

"Thank God He Met Lizzie is a pleasant enough movie, following similar territory to Dust Off The Wings: a man getting married in Sydney. But that is where the similarities end. Whereas Dust Off The Wings is badly acted and trashy, Thank God He Met Lizzie is a well put together, professional looking film with superb performances all around.
- Nikki Lesley, University of Sydney (1997)

"This Australian romantic comedy has attractive leads, and a tight enough script. It gives the viewers plenty to talk about, but it might make you shout at the screen as it leaves you hanging."
-Buzz McClain, All Movie Guide (1997)

"Though awkward pacing and initially tepid comedy give Party a slow start, the skilful charm of the Aussie cast and some genuine human interaction make it and invitation to consider."
-Ann Limpert, Entertainment Weekly (2001)

Further reviews can be found at:
http://www.imdb.com
http://www.dvd.net.au/review
http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_reviews
http://entertainment.msn.com/movies
http://variety.com/index

Online Presence and Web Literature

Thanks to a very well-know cast, there was more information for the film on the internet than I had expected, but not heaps. Many of the sites I found were places to buy the film now that it has been released to DVD. Yet, because the film was awarded and highly praised in Australia, I was able to find some very credible reviews but very few interviews. Additionally, many of my searched led to a number of sites that directed me to links for pages on the three main actors themselves, who have become rather big names in Hollywood since the film.

Method of Research

In order to obtain information on the movie, I primarily based my search online through movie and entertainment databases. I started with those provided on the course website, then broadened to entertainment magazines websites. Because the film is considered an archive, I was unable to find any print information from the time. I also searched for particular articles in Proquest Academic Research Library and Proquest Media Library. In my search, I was able to use a number of different avenues, thanks to the cast credits and the dual titles (released as The Wedding Party in the US). I searched the personal websites of Blanchett, Roxburgh, and O'Connor, as well as those for director Cherie Nowlan and writer Alexandra Long. All provided some information on the film, but not as much as hoped. I feel that my research methods were relatively useful, but a better knowledge of Australian Cinema might have helped me more as well.

Personal Critique

The subject matter itself is not particularly new, but the film takes a much different look at it. Instead of the typical finding the love of your life story, the film presents revelations and insights into marriage as convenience and an end to dating drudgery. According to the writer, Alexandra Long, we look for different things in a relationship depending upon our age and circumstances. Through the characters we can see these things. In our 20's, we are more concerned with fun, spontaneity, excitement and energy, all the traits that Jenny embodies. But as we move into our 30's, we are more mature and are looking for something meaningful, settled, and comfortable, Lizzie's persona.
The central character here is Guy played by Richard Roxburgh. Just before this film, Roxburgh had a strong base of film work, including the highly credited Doing Time for Patsy Cline for which he won the AFI award. Guy is a thirty something bachelor who is finally getting married after numerous failed attempts on the single scene. His bride to be is Lizzie played by Cate Blanchett. Previous to this film, Blanchett was fairly new, only known from her role in Paradise Road. Lizzie is a veterinarian who comes from a well to do Sydney family. The two meet in an awkward encounter involving a pregnant cat, and after a six-week romance, rush to the alter. The wedding is extremely lavish and yet very chaotic, just what a real wedding usually ends up being. Guy and Lizzie finally have a moment of silence in the limo, but we can see on their faces that they have realized the mistake. The acting in this scene is great. Blanchett and Roxbury perform so subtly and yet powerfully enough for no dialogue.
At the reception, the well-wishes offered by friends and family forces Guy to reflect back on the other major relationship of his life. For many years he lived with Jenny played by Frances O'Connor. O'Connor had already made a name for herself before this film with roles in Kiss or Kill, and Love and Other Catastrophes. Jenny is a quirky, carefree artist who Guy meets at a pool hall with his buddies. Their relationship seemed very natural and spontaneous. We see them in bouts of energetic sex, they have nude dinner parties, and everything they do is unorthodox- mostly thanks to Jenny. By comparison with those passionate, exciting days, his relationship with Lizzie seems rather dull and unadventurous. Despite this, Guy believes that, over the course of time, he will grow more comfortable with the relationship as it evolves, and is confident that he has made the right decision, but we know he misses Jenny.
The bulk of the film is a constant back and forth between the old and the new. Flashbacks are nicely intertwined into the conversations being had and important moments in the reception. The cinematography also adds a great deal to each snippet. With odd camera angles, grainy picture, and sharp cuts, it feels as if we are watching a home movie of the chaotic life the two led. This, in sharp contrast to the clear, fluid shots had during the elegant and formal reception. The segments move along quickly. It is not too long before Jenny's constant banter begins to suffocate Guy, leading to their ultimate demise, while back at the reception, Lizzie drinks away the night in hopes of forgetting the decision she has made, and the compromises to come. With the reception coming to a close, we see Lizzies' last ditch effort to make Guy happy with a homemade letter from his beloved "adopted" child Fung Hu. It is after this that Guy also realizes the sacrifices he must make. The two end the night like good friends, rather than newly weds, and it is here, through music, poignant dialogue and camera angles that we feel the depressing situation that the two have come to grips with. The end leaves us with a mirage of Jenny, and then a view of the perfect happy family, but as Guy narrates, "The rouble with happiness is, you don't know when you have it." All of which leaves the viewer with a bit in their stomach, questioning our own lives, and the paths we've chosen.
The roles are very well played by all those involved. Roxburgh is very convincing as the somewhat awkward Guy. He has a personality which is nice and comfortable, but with just a little edge to keep us from getting too bored with him. The always beautiful Blanchett is wonderful as Lizzie. Though we see her as the more rigid, boring one of the two women, she still manages to convey a sense of warmth which allows us to at least understand that she is a good person, and why Guy would want to marry her. O'Connor, one of Australia's darlings, plays the perfect polar opposite to Lizzie. She is hard to ignore on the screen with her spunky, energetic, somewhat over the top performance. Long did a very good job of creating rich, detailed and credible characters. They were developed in a way that made me feel as if they were living right next door, and I wanted to find out why they did what they did. I found the minor roles were slightly more exotic, typical of Australian comedic films, serving as the comic relief to the film. The aging singer, the outspoken Aunt, the blokey best man, and the eccentric working-class parents, all wacky in their own respect, keeping the film from getting to drab. Nowlan, who was credited only for documentary work prior to this, did a good job of leading such a strong cast through what could have been a much drier movie. The only problem I had was that the end seemed to give little to go on. We are left with numerous questions about what is to happen next. But I suppose that that is the point, to question our own happiness and revaluate the decisions we make in life.

Critical Uptake

There seemed to be a relatively decent amount of uptake of the film in Australia. The amount of online literature and reviews was decent, and they all seemed to praise the film and the cast in particular. It was also very highly praised by the AFI and the FCCA. In 1997, Cate Blanchett won for best supporting actress, while costume design, editing, production design, and Frances O'Connor all walked away with noms. The next year, Blanchett won a FCCA Award, and O'Connor received another nod, but fell short again. The box office sales for the film were not huge, but very respectable for an "independent film", opening at $113,879, and finishing with $565,747. It has placed 197 in grossing power among the 417 top grossing Australian films. Once again, I credit much of the uptake of this movie to its three main stars who have become darlings of Australian cinema.

[Box office figures provided by www.moviemarshall.com]

Film Production

The film was based in Sydney, though only one scene really lets us into this fact. Most of the scenes take place either at the reception hall, or in Guy and Jenny's apartment. It began production on July 25th, 1996 and ended only two months later on September 11th, 1996. It is obvious that despite the very short filming time, there was a lot of time put into the editing, almost a full year until its release in November 1997.

[Production Dates provided by www.imdb.com]

Previous Works

Up until this point, director Cherie Nowlan had only directed the documentary Lucinda, 31 which she also wrote in 1995. After this film, she went on to produce and direct another small film Dreamtime Alice. She then directed the popular Australian TV series "The Secret Life of Us" and two other TV movies. The three main actors had much more success and international fame. Previous to the film Roxburgh had done a large amount of TV and film work and was highly praised for his work in Doing Time for Pasty Cline. After the film, he achieved further recognition in Oscar and Lucinda, and became known internationally with the blockbusters Mission Impossible: II and Moulin Rouge. Blanchett was somewhat lesser known prior to this film, but was credited for her work in Paradise Road. Following the film, she also received praise for Oscar and Lucinda. It was the next year, that she hit it big with an Oscar nomination for Elizabeth. Since she has racked up the blockbuster credos with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Gift, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Veronica Guerin. Similar to Blanchett, O'Connor was under the radar previous to this film, but up-and-coming, with work in Love and Other Catastrophes and Kiss or Kill. Since, she has had supporting roles in a few Hollywood hits including Bedazzled, and AI: Artificial Intelligence.

[All movie information provided by www.us.imbd.com]

Relation in Australian Cinema

The film fits very nicely into the typical Australian romantic comedy while tying in features of women's film, art film and the musical. It plays on the "quirkiness" of the Australian character, relying on the minor roles to provide the unexpected humour. We see this in the wedding singer who believes he is ultra-talented, but very outdated, and the elderly Aunt who spurts out impolite things and the most inconvenient times. Additionally, these minor roles present the average Joe so common to Australian cinema. The common working-class parents who just sit and smile, though they don't understand, representing the domesticity of Australian life. Then there are the three groomsmen who drink, made crude remarks, but are still utterly loveable as the Aussie bloke should be. In the situational sense, we laugh at Jenny's typical immigrant parents, and the odd-ball antics they perform. Though the ending is a bit melodramatic, the lead up plays on the everyday trials and tribulations of couples working on their relationship in a comedic way, while singles desperately search for their own love. The entire film is artfully shot, with different cuts, camera angles and sound recording to represent different moods. In this same sense, music connects the scenes and moves the narrative along. The film also plays on the paradoxical aspect common to Australian cinema. There are moments, such as the near death experience had by Guy, and the break-up between Jenny and Guy, that are anything but comical. It does not try to be funny at every turn, in fact it doesn't seem to try at all, it just is through character portrayal and unspoken commentary. As for production, the film was rather low budget and included an all-Australian cast, typical to Australian cinema. After taking this class, It is clear to me how all these aspects work together to make a great movie. It is also amazing to me that after in-depth research and multiple viewings, I can now tell the vast difference between Australian films and those made in mass quantities by the American market. There is much more style, technique and Australian pride that go into each picture.

References

Limpert, Ann (June, 2001) Movie Review: The Wedding Party. Entertainment Weekly
p. 64

http://us.imdb.com/name (2004)
Filmography: Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Frances O'Connor, Cherie Nowlan

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120316 (2004)
Release Dates

http://www.moviemarshall.com (2004)
Box Office Figures

http://www.dvd.net.au/review (1998)
Movie Review: Thank God He Met Lizzie

http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_reviews (1997)
Movie Review: Thank God He Met Lizzie

http://entertainment.msn.com/movies (2001)
Movie Review: Thank God He Met Lizzie

http://variety.com/index (2001)
Movie Review: Thank God He Met Lizzie