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Amy

Starring Rachel Griffiths, Ben Mendelsohn and Alana DeRoma
Screenplay by David Parker
Directed by Nadia Tass
website: www.amythemovie.com

IN SHORT: An average almost chick flick with a disastrously cutesy ending. [Rated PG-13. 103 minutes]

Rock star Will Enker (Nick Barker) leads a band called Zink, whose album Hostage has been so successful that he's playing stadium gigs in his native Oz. Things must have changed radically in the fifteen years since we worked in the music business because, way back then, the first drops of rain at an open air event would have sent electrically charged players running off the stage. As we see early on in Amy, a mother-daughter story from Down Under, modern day rockers seem to put their faith in redundant electrical grounds. Dumb rockers. Even worse, the five year old girl was looking on when Daddy took his final bow.

Three years later, Amy (Alana DeRoma) stares a lot. Se carries a board around on which she writes what she needs to for, ever since the death of her dad, the girl has been rendered deaf and dumb. At least on the surface. Every kind of ologist that mom Tanya Rammus (Rachel Griffiths) can think of has pronounced the girl physically fit and her disabilities psychologically induced. Well, d'uh. The problem is, no one knows what the key is that will trigger a recovery. The officials of the local school board insist that Amy be enrolled in a school for the Deaf. Tanya refuses and home schools the kidlet. The authorities pursue her, accusing her of abuse and Tanya and Amy flee the farm on which they live for a rundown area of Melbourne.

To be fair, Rachel Griffiths could have done a star turn and insisted on grabbing screentime as the suffering mother. She didn't, so thank you Ms. G. The screen is dominated, instead, by DeRoma, who has a great look. That's about it for this first timer, who provides most of what her character needs -- that lost look or a shy smile. When the character eventually utters words, all those words are dubbed. We don't know if the sound man did a lousy job -- most low budget movies prefer to fix everything in the mix and don't pay close attention -- or if DeRoma couldn't hack the demands of the part, detailed below.

What works best about Amy is the cast of supporting characters that inhabit Mercer Street. There's Mrs. Mullins (Mary Ward), a nasty old witch with a public cleaning fetish; the guitar strumming neighbor Robert Buchanan (Ben Mendelsohn) and the hair obsessed woman (Susie Porter) he lives with; young Zac Trendle (Jeremy Trigatti) who forms a bond with Amy -- he thinks being a deaf mute is "cool" and his mom Anny (Susie Porter), stuck in a loveless marriage with a brutal alcoholic. Last up are Luke and Wayne Lassiter (Torquil Neilson and Sullivan Stapleton), who fix broken down cars.

Without giving too much of the character action away -- Australian humor is a wee bit off kilter, which is the way we like it -- it is Robert who begins the unlocking process when Amy responds to his singing and guitar playing by belting out the song. Mom refuses to believe it but, when she eventually does, she calls in the only member of the school board who has offered to help her, a psychologist played by Frank Gallacher. It's too late. Human Services has snatched the girl and thing get hairy from that point out.

Then we reach the end, which is so stupidly written that our jaw dropped and a pleasant hour and a half spiraled down the toilet into "we don't believe what we're seeing" land. Happy endings are one thing. What happens on screen for this flick is quite another.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Amy, he would have paid . . .

$4.00

Once it hits the rental market, Amy is something you can plug in for the kidlets.

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