Russian Doll

Australian romantic comedies always have the same characteristic. They have strange characters and stranger jokes. For the most part, they are enjoyable, although sometimes it takes a little getting used to. Thankfully, there is not one funny moment in Russian Doll, so it does not quite qualify as an Australian comedy, and thus does not tarnish their image. Instead, it tries to be a standard romantic comedy, and fails miserably in nearly every aspect, mostly due to the relentless pursuit of formulaic plot twists, leading to expected twists and surprises.

Harvey and Katia are getting married. However, nothing is what it seems. It is a marriage of convenience, to allow Katia, a Russian immigrant, to remain in the country. She planned to come over for an arranged marriage, but found her potential spouse dead. She met Ethan (David Wenham, Moulin Rouge, Better Than Sex) and promptly fell in love. Unfortunately, Ethan's wife Miriam (Rebecca Frith, The Missing, Strange Planet) would probably not approve of Ethan's affair. So Ethan convinces Harvey (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix, Strange Planet) to marry her. Harvey is getting over a failed relationship, and wants nothing to do with Katia. Of course, Katia and Harvey immediately have bad chemistry together. Anybody want a cookie if they guess what happens?

The only speck of originality in the script by director Stavros Kazantzidis (True Love and Chaos) and Allanah Zitserman is the fact that everybody except Harvey is Jewish. Does it matter? Not really. They plot moves merrily along oblivious to the fact that nobody cares. Ethan begins to spend more time with Miriam and his family, which distresses Katia. At heart, Harvey is a good guy, so he does what he can to cheer her up. But remember, he does not like her and although he does not approve of Ethan's relationship, he does not want to betray his friend.

Part of why Russian Doll does not work is because of the Katia character. Movies like this require character quirks to be endearing. They look bad, but these quirks are what will eventually draw the two people together. Katia is just annoying. She is loud, rude, and it is obvious why Harvey dislikes her. Kazantzidis and Zitserman make her so annoying that when they want the audience to sympathize with her, it does not work. Harvey seems like a decent person. It is baffling that he would agree to marry Katia in the first place. Weaving does not make a convincing star in this type of movie. Sure he can kick Keanu Reeves' butt fine, but here he looks confused and tired. Ignore Russian Doll, and it will go away.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for some strong sexuality and language.

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