|The Price of Milk
Compared with the rest of the world, the New Zealand film industry is
still in its childhood. In the last two decades, there have been significant strides
made, but the country still only outputs a handful of feature films a year, most
made with some governmental support. Still, there have been several high quality
movies that have enjoyed international success, including Utu (1983), an epic
about a Maori warrior, helmed by Geoff Murphy, Mauri (1988), Merata Mita's
drama about a prodigal whose return to his isolate home has a deeply profound
effect, Heavenly Creatures (1994), Peter Jackson's examination of the true-life
murder case involving teenage girls, and Once Were Warriors (1994), a searing
drama helmed by Lee Tamahori about an aboriginal family struggling to survive
in contemporary times. Each of these directors has brought an intriguing visual
style and distinctive voice to world cinema and many have gone on to direct
Hollywood features with varying degrees of success. Perhaps the latest name to
join these ranks is Harry Sinclair, a former actor who has begun to carve his niche
as a filmmaker with Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (1997) and his
latest, the fairy tale-like The Price of Milk.
Inspired by both the natural beauty of New Zealand and, of all things,
classical music by Russian composers, Sinclair has crafted a quirky romantic
comedy that is as free-spirited as its heroine. Lucinda (Danielle Cormack)
is deliriously happy in love with dairy farmer Rob (Karl Urban). Each has his
or her own little foibles, she collects baby shoes and he talks to his cows,
but on the surface things could not be better. Everything starts to unravel
when Lucinda accidentally runs down a Maori woman (Rangi Motu) standing
in the middle of the road. Shortly thereafter, things start to go badly for the
heroine; she begins to feel that she and Rob are losing interest in one another.
Egged on by her best friend Drosophila (Willa O'Neill), Lucinda begins to do
things in order to provoke Rob -- like swimming in a vat of milk. For his part,
Rob gets angry at first, but he cannot remain upset with Lucinda. (He even
joins her in the ruined milk.)
When her precious quilt is stolen off their bed in the dead of night,
Lucinda becomes upset. While driving into town, she spots her quilt at the
home of none other than the elderly Maori woman she mowed down.
Bargaining for her quilt, she trades Rob's cows for its return. The chain
reaction this sets off includes Rob becoming so angry that he loses his
voice and calls off the wedding, and Drosophila moving in to offer aid
and comfort to a brokenhearted Rob.
Sinclair and company spent seven months filming The Price of Milk
and the writer-director has stated that he worked more from an outline than
a finished script. The haphazard, almost serendipitous manner in which the
film unfolds reflects this, but the end result (despite some minor flaws)
is loaded with an off-kilter charm. The odd sense of humor may not completely
translate to American audiences, but there is still much to enjoy, including the
breathtaking landscape captured by cinematographer Leon Narbey, the
soundtrack that includes the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and the fine
leading turns by Cormack and Urban.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for drug use, sensuality and nudity
Running time: 87 mins.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.