Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heartland Film Festival review: Second Hand Wedding

I kicked off the Heartland Film Festival with one of the first films of the year, Second Hand Wedding, New Zealand filmmaker's Paul Murphy first full-length feature.

I was dazzled by the views of New Zealand's Kapiti Coast and gorgeous shots of the coastline. I've never been to the land of the Kiwis, but an ex-pat American tells me it's the most beautiful place on earth. After seeing the shots by the film's second unit (Murphy was the second unit cameraman too), I can believe it. Northern California is a Superfund site compared to New Zealand.

Garage sale junkie, Jill (played by my new favorite Kiwi actressGeraldine Brophy), and her friend, Muffy, spend weekend after weekend visiting rummage sales, buying anything and everything they can find. In one of my favorite scenes, Muffy and Jill are sitting on the couch, when Muffy notices a chip in a teapot lid, obviously bringing the value down of the whole purchase.

"Wait a minute," says Jill, and she gets up. She returns a few seconds later with an identical, chip-free lid. "I knew I kept this for a reason."

"Good," says Muffy. "Now you can throw the old one away."

Jill rescues the damaged lid from her wasteful friend. "Oh no. You never know."

Meanwhile, Cheryl, Jill's daughter, is getting married in two months. She is freaking out that her mother is going to junk up the wedding with her garage sale finds. To make matters worse, Cheryl and her fiancé, Stu, are stuck with an $18,000 bill for the reception hall, and no way to pay for it. They'll lose their slot, but still have to cough up the cash.

Jill learns that her hoarding and bargain hunting are creating family problems she was never aware of. In one of those moments we all dread, Jill has a flash of self-awareness that her hoarding is an embarrassment to her family. To overcome the problem, she holds the Kapiti Coast's biggest garage sale, sells her years' of garage sale finds and comes up with more than enough money to save the day.

Murphy's attention to detail captured some of the psychological differences between Cheryl Rose and mother Jill. Jill's house is cluttered beyond belief: three toasters, two stovetop espresso makers, and enough small cups and vases to warrant a retail cabinet. But Jill and Stu's apartment is bare, have almost nothing on display.

While Jill's avarice was funny in many ways, part of me kept thinking how glad I was that we didn't live this way. My family and I recently eliminated most of the junk and detritus from our own lives, and Second Hand Wedding reminded me of the lifestyle we finally escaped. I watched the movie with a sense of relief and smug self-satisfaction that we weren't "like that."

The evening finally topped off with director Paul Murphy taking questions at the end of the show. He described how they didn't have any money to make the film, and relied on several different funding sources to complete it.

"We nearly considered a garage sale," he told the capacity crowd.

"This showing," said Murphy, referring to the very theatre and showing I was sitting in. "This showing is the North American premiere of 'Second Hand Wedding.'" Wow, I was somehow just a part of New Zealand film history, and I swelled with Hoosier pride.

So suck on that, Toronto!

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Interesting facts about Second Hand Wedding
- Paul Murphy was the Key Grip on Peter Jackson's King Kong.
- Geraldine Brophy and Jed Brophy both appeared in King Kong as well.
- Jown Rowles, Jill's favorite singer, was "nearly world famous," said Murphy.
- As the crew was running out of money, the New Zealand Film Commission came through with some money to help them complete the film.


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