‘Russian Doll’, made in 2001, is one of the best Australian films made in recent years. The film features a strong storyline with a good Aussie cast. Hugo Weaving played the main character Harvey, a private investigator and want to be writer. His life is in a state of turmoil when he finds out that his girlfriend is having an affair. He is further thrown when he agrees to do a favour for his best friend Ethan (David Wenham).
Ethan is having an affair with a beautiful young Russian woman, Katia (Natalie Novikova). Katia’s story is that she came out to Sydney as a mail order bride only to discover that her husband to be had suddenly died of a heart attack. Katia befriends Ethan, and he soon becomes more than a shoulder to cry on!
Ethan soon realises his happy marriage with Miriam (Rebecca Frith) is at risk unless Katia can be controlled. He asks Harvey to take her on as a roommate and to wed her in a marriage of convenience. Harvey agrees when Ethan sets him up with plenty of money so he can give up his day job and spend his time writing his great Australian novel. It doesn’t take Harvey too long into the arrangement to know that he is going to have his hands very full coping with Katia!
This was a clear case of the filmmakers, writer/director Stavros Kazantzidis and co-writer Allanah Zitserman,knowing the kind of film they wanted to make, and carrying it off with class. They have come up with a clear blueprint, a good recipe, that makes for a charming, entertaining screwball romantic comedy.
The classic ingredients are all here:- the kooky female lead Katia ala something that Goldie Hawn would have played in her prime… the straight laced, conservative male, a part that would have suited someone like George Segal…a storyline that could have come out of ‘When Harry Meets Sally’-
friends becoming lovers on the rebound, breaking up and then getting back together again…Have you got the picture?!
As well as its many layers, ‘Russian Doll’ has many riches. Most of them relate to good performances from a strong cast. Natalia Novikova shines as the kooky Katia, Hugo Weaving gives his usual good performance. The only star that didn’t shine, so to speak, was David Wenham as Ethan. I found him a little miscast, his performance was stilted.
There were some strong supporting role performances. One of Australia’s best actresses Rebecca Firth was great as Ethan’s naive, homely wife, Miriam. Sasha Horler gave a charismatic, comic performance as one of Katia’s devious, horny Russian girlfriends, and had a wonderful quirky Russian accent.
One of the pleasures of the film was that it was set around Sydney and it was great to see Sydney icons such as the nightclub spot, ‘The Russian Coachman’ featured. Summing up, I strongly recommend ‘Russian Doll’. Take out on DVD one night, have a few glasses of wine, sit back on the couch, and enjoy a well made, feel good local movie.