"Sione's Wedding" (or "Samoan Wedding," as my DVD was called for some reason), honestly isn't that original a romantic comedy, except for in the culture that it depicts--Samoans in New Zealand, in this case. It also obviously wasn't created with any thought to the international market, as I'm not sure anyone who doesn't already love New Zealand and know a little about it (such as myself) would be able to understand what's going on.
But I still found myself liking it. It was funny in the right parts, tender in others, and an all-around fun time.
The story revolves around 4 30-something Samoan men living in Auckland. Known as the "Duck Rangers," they've earned a reputation for getting drunk and disrupting all the marriages in the community. Therefore, they are banned from all future weddings by the local reverend. After some negotiating, the reverend gives them permission to attend the wedding of their friend Sione, on one condition: they must bring girlfriends, women they have made a commitment to.
However, each of them has a serious problem preventing them from finding a girlfriend to bring. Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi) has a girlfriend, Leilani (Teuila Blakely), but his constant neglect of her is driving her away at lightspeed. Michael (Robbie Magasiva) has plenty of girls, but they're all interested in one thing, and none of them is interested in any sort of deeper relationship. Albert (Oscar Kightley) is a nice enough guy, but so incredibly shy that the only women he can talk to are his mother and Tanya, the woman who works across from him at his office. And Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi) is only interested in the girl who he only knows from a chatline.
The narrative arcs for each of these is fairly obvious from the beginning. Albert will obviously end up with Tanya, Stanley will eventually find his mystery girl, and Sefa will eventually grow up and be a better boyfriend to Leilani. Michael's storyline is more unpredictable, but it doesn't really go anywhere, so it doesn't really count as an advantage.
What saves the movie is the actors. Kightley especially is able to create a sympathetic as Albert, and I really cared what happened to him. I also found myself really drawn into the relationship between Sefa and Leilani: the two actors have a complicated and great chemistry, and I really believed their struggle with each other. Finally the four main characters' chemistry with each other really worked; they really played off each other, delivering some really great and interesting dialogue. I liked every scene that just featured the four of them playing off each other.
Although the story is fairly formulaic in most parts and underdeveloped in others, it's well acted and there's some well written dialogue. Anyone interested in a romantic comedy set amongst a culture they may not be all that familiar with should at least check it out, just know it isn't mind-blowingly awesome.
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