Thank God He Met Lizzie Review

After his relationship with Jenny (Frances O’Connor) breaks up, Guy (Richard Roxburgh) finds himself a single thirtysomething again. One day he comes across a cat about to give birth in his garden. Searching for the owner, he finds her: Lizzie (Cate Blanchett). Flash forward, and it’s Guy and Lizzie’s wedding day. It’s a great occasion, but as the day progresses, Guy finds himself thinking more and more about Jenny, and we see the ups and downs of their relationship in flashback. Did he make the right choice?

There are films which have an interest outside their own merits or lack of them. Made in 1997, Thank God He Met Lizzie is one of them. In itself a middling romantic comedy, made on a lowish budget with a cast of then unknowns. Now it’s worth a look because all three of its principal actors are now much bigger names than they were then. Lizzie was a feature debut for director Cherie Nowlan and writer Alexandra Long, and to be frank inexperience shows in this film. The film is really two separate stories, linked by Guy. The trouble is, he’s not an especially likeable character, being a commitment-phobe, but the writing isn’t strong enough and Roxburgh not charismatic enough, to make him particularly interesting despite his flaws. Blanchett doesn’t have a great deal to do except look decorative in a wedding-dress, and she manages that ably enough. O’Connor steals every scene she’s in, making Jenny a character worth regretting the loss of. Lizzie is mildly amusing here and there (you don’t get to see a naked paperhanging scene every day of the week), with moments of good observation in the script, direction and acting. It’s watchable enough for the hour and a half it’s on, but it’s rather mild and underwhelming.

Thank God He Met Lizzie was released on video and DVD in the USA as The Wedding Party and on British video under its original title. This provokes a question about its running time. Reference sources indicate a length of 90 or 91 minutes in the cinema. However, this DVD runs 90:24; an Australian VHS tape I compared it with runs to the same time. Either the cinema release is actually three or four minutes longer, or there has been no speed-up in producing a PAL DVD. This would normally indicate a NTSC master, but why that a PAL-using country like Australia should master a DVD of a local production from a NTSC source I don’t know. According to the BBFC website, the UK video runs 86:46, which would indicate that PAL speed-up has happened there, or that the British release has been shortened slightly. I will update this review if further information comes to light.

Magna Pacific’s DVD (encoded for Region 4 only) has an anamorphic transfer in a ratio of 16:9. I have no record of the original aspect ratio, but judging by eye the film would seem to be composed for 1.75:1. The picture is a little soft, and the colour balance varies from scene to scene, by turns under- and over-saturated, more or less grainy. Much of this is due to the film itself: DP Kathryn Millis and production designer Clarissa Patterson emphasises pastels and cream tones during the wedding sequences, bolder colours (and more handheld camera work) in the sequences with Jenny. Some of the scenes have an over-exposed verité look which isn’t really appropriate for the subject matter. However, for whatever reason, the DVD transfer only serves to emphasise the impression of a film that doesn’t really hang together too well. But it’s generally acceptable.

The soundtrack is Dolby Surround, but it’s very much a centre-channel mix favouring the dialogue. The surrounds are used occasionally for music, but this is really not much than basic mono. As such there’s nothing much wrong with it, being a professional, clearly-recorded job. (I haven’t seen the US DVD under the title The Wedding Party, but it apparently has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. In the circumstances, I can’t see that making a great deal of difference.) There are no subtitles, which is regrettable. Twenty-four chapter stops is ample.

There are some extras, though they’re mostly standard EPK stuff. Despite what the case says, there is no trailer included, which is a surprising omission. (If it’s present as an Easter Egg, I didn’t find it.) There are biographies and linked video interview segments for Roxburgh, Blanchett, O’Connor, Millis, Nowlan and producer Jonathan Shteinman. A B-roll consists of three minutes of on-set footage covering the shooting of two scenes. As part of a making-of featurette it might have been interesting, but without any context it’s strictly one-watch material. The interviews and the B-roll are both full-frame. Finally, there are ten text pages of production notes.

Thank God He Met Lizzie is a typical of many first features, with flaws and misjudgements balancing out the better aspects. It’s presented on a decent though not earthshaking DVD from Magna Pacific which will be worth a look for fans of the stars, especially as you should be able to buy it very cheaply online.

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