Friday, June 10, 2011

Ben Sombogaart's BRIDE FLIGHT: get ready for some succulent soap opera

To set your mind immediately at ease, this is not the Dutch remake of Runaway Bride, though that is the first film TrustMovies thought of when he heard the title BRIDE FLIGHT. Instead, this sterling new "sudser," directed by Ben Sombogaart (shown just below), takes us back to Holland, just-post World War II, and from there to New Zealand, as we travel with three Dutch beauties who are emigrating as war brides. How exotic! But these things indeed happened back then, particularly in a Europe barely recovering from the Axis epidemic, where young women might look forward to a better (or at least a different) life far from the still-smoking remains of wartime.

Written by actress/
screenwriter Marieke van der Pol, the movie begins in modern times as a fellow named Frank (played by the still-virile Rutger Hauer) makes a visit, along with his dog, to what looks like his very own winery. There he, friends and co-workers toast a new crop. But then... Nope: I'm not going to spoil anything here. Cut to that titular flight and its preparation a half-century earlier, during which we meet our three heroines: Ada (kind, sweet and semi-innocent), Esther (a hot Holocaust survivor and would-be fashion designer) and Marjorie (an attractive young woman who is very pragmatic).

Also on board that titular flight is a young man named Frank, and we soon realize that he is the younger version of Mr. Hauer. That the two look nothing alike should disturb no one, since the actor who plays young Frank -- Waldemar Torenstra (above)-- is a gorgeous hunk who, were it not for those three leading ladies, would single-handedly keep this movie percolating (it actually boils over during one very hot sex scene).

The movie's setting -- New Zealand in the 40s, 50s and 60s -- is by turns so homey and exotic, and Ms van der Pol has filled the film with so much interesting incident (all filmed by Sombogaart in a manner that moves fast and is great fun to view). While there is never any question that what we're watching is soap-opera and melodrama, it is all so well done that it's an absolute pleasure -- a guilty one or not, you'll have to judge for yourself.

The performances of the three leading ladies (and their respective men) are expert, too. As Ava, Karina Smulders smolders beautifully, torn as she is (above) between doing the right thing and what she so desperately wants. As Marjorie, Elsie Schaap (below) finds interesting layers of desire, anger and gratitude within her pragmatism, while Anna Drijver as Esther (shown two photos below) brings unexpected poignancy to her portrait of a glamorous, hard-as-nails striver determined to make up for the Holocaust all by herself.

The movie ends up spanning generations, with older selves and younger selves growing more complicated, the more we learn about them. In addition to entertaining us very well, the writer and director, by weaving present and past so cleverly, give us some interesting problems to consider. Foremost among these is the question of how important is "the truth" to lives being happily lived (and in one case already ended). The answer the film provides, while not particularly profound, is a smart and mature one, I think.

Bride Fight (Rated R, 130 minutes, spoken both in English and in Dutch -- with English subtitles) from Music Box Films, opens today, Friday, June 10, in some 20 theaters throughout New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California (in Manhattan, it's at the Paris Theater), with many more cities and theaters to be added in the weeks to come. Click here to see the entire list of playdates scheduled for the film through the month of July.

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