G, 91 minutes
Review by © Jane Freebury
The romantic couple in this new Australian feature first clap eyes on each other on their way to a tropical island. No prizes for guessing what eventually happens there, but in romantic comedy it’s the journey that counts, isn’t it.
They couldn’t be more different. Fresh off the plane from San Francisco where she works in corporate law, Laura (Saskia Hampele), still has black stilettos to kick off and maybe a little attitude to lose. While Chip (Liam McIntyre), the boat’s captain and grounded man that he is, is completely comfortable at work in his shorts. And he is barefoot.
Laura has quite a job in front of her. She has been flown to this tropical paradise on business, tasked with persuading Chip to sign a contract making him the new CEO of his grandfather’s company, Finley Developments.
Chip’s grandfather Graham (Martin Portus), a billionaire businessman a few days away from his 85th birthday, wants his grandson to take over from him at head office.
Chip has shown absolutely no interest in taking up the role. He is keen on doing charitable work, like helping people who cannot afford to buy a home. Despite his resistance to the idea, Laura persists. A partnership at the law firm is hers if she is successful.
West Coast US meets laid-back beach bum on the far side of the Pacific
Chip may know his mind, but what he doesn’t know is that there is more to Laura than he has realised.
It takes a game of coconut toss for him to figure out who the glamorous new arrival is.
Laura and Chip knew each other when they were growing up together on the tropical island that he still calls home. As 12-year-olds they were thick as thieves who got into all sorts of scrapes together.
Once this is clear, Chip rises to the situation with a bit of combativeness and baffled attraction for the childhood friend all grown up. Okay, he will take a look at the contract, page by page, in exchange for Laura spending time out with him on some fun activities. Exchanging her law books for snorkelling on the reef, fishing, and hiking through the forest at dawn.
This Little Love of Mine is West Coast US meets laid-back beach bum on the far side of the Pacific. The kind of thing that happens when opposites attract, discovering what is missing in their lives, but it doesn’t have the spirit, wit and subversive energy of a Crocodile Dundee.
The quick cutaway to Chip’s bare feet when Laura stepped aboard his boat was an ah-ha moment, a trace of authentic local culture peeking through the generic veneer. You will be hard pressed to recognise much else that is Australian in this placeless, generic rom-com.
Since when did we become the 51st state?
Even the accents of the Australian cast are American. Martin Portus as Graham Finley, Chip’s billionaire grandfather is a notable exception with a fruity, old-style Australian accent.
The shoot took place in idyllic Palm Cove, Far North Queensland, halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas. It is showcased as a peerless resort destination and wedding setting, but here goes by the name of Sapphire Cove. Laura’s American fiancé Owen, also a corporate workaholic lawyer, cannot even remember its name correctly, which seems to say something.
The film shoot took place in mid-2020 which was a minor miracle during Covid, and something to cheer, I suppose, even if the results are bland and dull.
This Little Love of Mine is directed by Christine Luby, who is formerly from East Coast US and now resides in Brisbane. The screenplay is by Georgia Harrison who mapped similar territory in her writing in Rip Tide in 2017, the story of a New York model who discovers peace and purpose at the Australian coast.
Both key creatives would have a feeling for what chimes with both of the trans-Pacific audiences, but the result looks like this idyllic FNQ island has floated to the other side of the ocean.
Hampele, McIntyre and Lynn Gilmartin, as their vivacious good friend Gem, have all performed in TV’s Neighbours and have strong backgrounds in Australian and US television, which is a tribute to their skills. But this Screen Queensland funded-film treats its Australian locations like tropical wallpaper.
Since when did we become the 51st state?