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Warm-hearted but Flawed

 

From our Australian correspondent Mature
A delightful rainy afternoon's entertainment, the very Australian romantic comedy Paperback Hero warms the heart. But a flawed script and ham-fisted direction prevent the movie from scaling the heights of Shakespeare in Love.  

Set in a tiny outback town, the story concerns two "rough and tough" characters: Ruby, a crop dusting pilot engaged to the dull but sensible Hamish, and Jack, a truck-driver. Secretly attracted to his good "mate" Ruby, Jack pens a romantic novel. When Ziggy, a smooth publisher, turns up to talk contracts and publicity, Jack persuades Ruby to pretend that she wrote the book, so that Jack won't lose his macho image. This involves a trip to Sydney where romance develops between Jack and Ruby. However, many obstacles stand in the path of their true love, including Hamish and Ziggy. 

The film's best scenes occur when Jack and Ruby realize the seriousness of their attraction to each other and must deal with Ruby's engagement to Hamish and Ziggy's attraction to Jack. 

Unfortunately, Paperback Hero's rough and ready script not only mars the film, the script's unnecessarily crude language saddles the production with a "Mature" rating that cuts into the size of the movie's potential audience. All too often, the film's unsubtle, amateurish direction threatens to turn its outback characters into caricatures.  

But the excellent acting of its two main stars, the beautiful photography and the soundtrack come to come to Paperback Hero's rescue. Claudia Karvan, as Ruby and Hugh Jackman, as Jack, bring a perfect sense of timing in the comic scenes, and develop the romance beautifully. And the extremely handsome Hugh Jackman really shines as Jack. 

The soundtrack gives the romance a great boost, especially when Jack and Ruby sing "Crying," a highlight of the film and one of the best renditions I've heard. What a pity that Hugh Jackman, an excellent singer presently starring in the London revival of Oklahoma, doesn't sing more. The film's photography also showcases the vastness and beauty of the outback to perfection. 

Lisa-Anne Sanderson

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