The Price Of Milk

An insufferably whimsical fairy tale from New Zealand, Harry Sinclair's The Price Of Milk is a film of pure, unmitigated enchantment: all helium, no balloon. It's as if Sinclair had already hired a crew to shoot the spectacular countryside vistas and booked the Moscow Symphony Orchestra to perform the wall-to-wall score (which sounds like Leonard Bernstein's rendition of the trolley jingle from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), but forgot to write a script. So, in a fit of panic, he devised a nonsensical premise and loaded the screen with all the quirky crap he could dream up, including an agoraphobic dog that trots around inside a cardboard box, an elderly Maori woman who sleeps under a pile of stolen quilts, and a sharp corner where the locals rendezvous in flipped cars. No actions have consequence, no themes have weight, and the characters are arbitrarily motivated. As Sinclair drops in on a rustic dairy farm surrounded on all sides by lush, rolling green hills, young proprietors Karl Urban and Danielle Cormack are enjoying a carefree life in a ramshackle house under the stars. But Cormack, under her duplicitous best friend's (Willa O'Neill) suggestion, decides to test the limits of Urban's love by doing things to anger him, like swimming around in a $1,500 vat-full of milk. After she accidentally runs over a Maori woman, who magically walks away unscathed, the woman's sons steal their hand-stitched quilt as a way to settle the score. In exchange for the quilt, she offers $400,000 worth of cows, and the bartering continues until all the loose ends are predictably tied. Much like Heather Graham in last year's indie trifle Committed, Cormack explores the boundaries of commitment in her relationship, ignoring truths that are plainly obvious to everyone else. But unlike Graham, who tests her own commitment to a two-timing sleaze who's unworthy of it, Cormack sabotages a perfectly blissful union for no good reason, making her a terribly unsympathetic heroine. If something were actually at stake, her character might have ruined the film, but, more pressing still, there first has to be a film to ruin.

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