THREE STARS Girl accepts boy's marriage proposal. But it has to be soon, and it has to be in Darwin.
Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee
This formulaic rom-com from director Wayne Blair (THE SAPPHIRES) is made interesting for two reasons - the cultural backdrop against which it’s set, and Kerry Fox. The story doesn’t stray too far from the norm with surprises not supplied by either Blair or co-screenwriter and star Miranda Tapsell. What you get is a big-hearted crowd-pleaser with more than enough laughs to sustain the running time. And that’s good enough.
This is a story is about a boy (BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY’s Gwilym Lee) proposing to a girl (Tapsell) who accepts with the caveat that they get married ‘at home’ in Darwin and, for work reasons, they have to be hitched in the next ten days. Cue cross-continent flights and urgency made more complicated when Mum goes missing, jilted Dad hides in the closet with Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now on repeat, then Lauren and Ned break up after the inevitable ‘you don’t understand me’ argument. Will they still get married? Of course they will, it’s a rom-com.
Blair manages the none-too-challenging ingredients with conviction, aided by the appealing presence of Lee and Tapsell. There’s a lightness to their touch that never gets mawkish, always stays funny and is made more interesting when the story heads further north to the Tiwi Islands and loosens the rom-com strings to explore family, identity and belonging. It’s rewarding to see Aboriginal people in a work-a-day context for once: there are no colonial hangovers, no cop crackdowns or drug-related deaths. A scene in which Lauren meets her maternal grandfather for the first time is genuinely touching.
Casting the under-rated Kerry Fox as her boss is a winning ingredient. She effortlessly brings class, depth and edge to a small yet critical role, one that would otherwise be reduced to a cut-out villainess. She brings weight that helps anchor the film and stop it from floating away on a cloud of rom-com cliché. On balance, TOP END WEDDING won’t change your world but it may change the way you look at the Top End (and the local tourist authority are counting on it). Plus you get to spend a couple of hours in the warm embrace of Blair, Fox, Tapsell and Lee which is no bad thing on a cold winter’s night.