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Oscar and Lucinda

Whether you think that there's someone out there for everyone or that finding love is as much a matter of luck and chance as flipping a coin, Oscar and Lucinda (1997) should appeal to your sense of romance. Director Gillian Armstrong's sweet, well-acted adaptation of Peter Carey's novel about two red-headed, gambling-addicted misfits who find each other in mid-1800s Australia seems to prove both theories correct. Because as perfectly suited as timid Anglican reverend Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes) and unconventional businesswoman Lucinda Leplastrier (Cate Blanchett) seem for each other, their initial meeting literally depends on the luck of the draw. Sailing home to Sydney after visiting England to purchase equipment for her glassworks, Lucinda accidentally stumbles into the second-class section while looking for a card game and meets mild-mannered Oscar, who's en route to become a missionary and put some distance between the horses and cards on which he's become compelled to bet. One thing leads to another, and soon the two are furiously betting away in her stateroom while a storm rages around them. But Oscar's conflicted feelings about gambling — it goes against the church's morals, but how can it be wrong, when God asks humanity to gamble their mortal souls on His existence? — lead him to avoid her after that first intense encounter. He can't escape his addiction for long, though, and soon his recognition and appreciation of Lucinda as a kindred spirit bring him back to her side. Their happiness is threatened both by scandal and by the fact that Oscar believes she's in love with Reverend Dennis Hasset (Ciaran Hinds), a former confidante who left Sydney to take up a distant post in the wilderness. Oscar's journey to bring Rev. Hasset a beautiful, impractical glass church — and, in so doing, demonstrate his dedication to Lucinda — takes up the last third of the movie and, by putting Oscar in completely alien territory (physically and emotionally), marches him toward his destiny. Fiennes and Blanchett both give excellent performances; Oscar and Lucinda are two vulnerable, lonely souls who crave understanding and kinship more than anything else, and Fiennes and Blanchett make their joy at finding each other easy to believe. Geoffrey Simpson's cinematography is lushly beautiful; the film's sepia tones and rich golds and browns instantly establish a mood of bittersweet nostalgia. Oscar and Lucinda is one of those quiet, compelling romances that gives you hope that there is a round hole for every square peg out there. Fox brings the film to DVD in a lovely anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with strong Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a Spanish 2.0 Surround track is also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles). Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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