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Film review: 'Somersault' is slow, predictable

Published: Friday, June 16 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

SOMERSAULT — ** 1/2 — Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran; not rated, probable R (profanity, sex, nudity, violence, drugs, vulgarity).

"Somersault" arrives with an armload of filmmaking awards and a truckload of nominations from its home country, Australia.

It's obvious that the award-voters who gave the film such love were taken with the assured, confident lead performance given by relatively unknown Australian TV actress Abbie Cornish. (She's received several subsequent film offers — including some from Hollywood — based on the strength of that one performance.)

But you have to wonder if the voters were responding more to Cornish and less to this coming-of-age drama, which is pretty slow and predictable, and filled with soap opera-like plot contrivances.

Cornish stars as Heidi, a troubled teen who's just been caught in a compromising situation with her mother's boyfriend (Damian De Montemas). Mom (Olivia Pigeot) has finally had enough of her promiscuous daughter's antics, and gives the girl the boot. With few possessions and even fewer options, Heidi takes a bus to a resort town, where she hooks up with Joe (Sam Worthington).

She also gets a job at a nearby convenience store and strikes up a friendship with her landlady, Irene (Lynette Curran). But her relationship with Joe is in limbo. He's not sure he wants a girlfriend. Or if he wants anything.

Thankfully, first time screenwriter/director Cate Shortland doesn't seem too interested in turning this into something salacious. And she was smart enough to cast Cornish, who resembles both indie actress Sarah Polley and "Grey's Anatomy" co-star Katherine Heigl. She's got real presence.

But we're much less interested in Worthington's sulky, conflicted Joe. (At one point, he even makes a pass at his older, gay co-worker, probably the film's most ludicrous moment.)

"Somersault" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong sexual language (profanity, innuendo and slang terms), simulated sex and other sexual contact, some male and female nudity, some brief violence (including fisticuffs, a beating and threatened sexual violence), and drug content (including marijuana use). Running time: 101 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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