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With: Michela Noonan, Mitchel Butel, Samuel Johnson, Steve Adams, Anni Finsterer
Written by: Elise McCredie
Directed by: Elise McCredie
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 84
Date: 05/19/1999

Strange Fits of Passion (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Stuff of Poetry

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Right away this movie earns points with a wonderful title, Strange Fits of Passion, quoted from William Wordsworth. The movie's heroine, called simply "She" (Michela Noonan), is a helpless romantic, an adorable, baffled, confused, awkward second-hand bookstore clerk. She is thin, with big eyes, stringy straight hair, and little heart-shaped lips. Her gorgeous Barbie-doll roommate makes her feel small and inadequate. She claims that love is a huge conspiracy, designed to keep women in their place, but at the same time, she's floored by a look, a smile, and a few words of poetry.

Movies like this usually don't work. They begin with a character swearing that they'll never find love, and then they do. We know that they will, and it can be tiresome hearing about it. The Brothers was a recent example of this. But in Strange Fits of Passion, she seems to accept her confusion. She wears it as part of her body instead of pretending that she's right.

Though the movie is short on plot, it's long on entertainment. She constantly seeks advice and follows it to the letter. At first she goes out and tries to pick up a guy like her hot roommate would do it, by playing head games. But she's no good at it. She's too romantic. When she tells a guy to fuck off, it comes out wrong and the guy shuffles away.

She then falls for a guy who comes into her bookstore, and she's sure that he's the One, despite the fact that she only knows his first name and can't find him again. She decides to quickly sleep with her Spanish teacher, just to experience sex for once. She volunteers to help pack food for refugees and becomes convinced that she's a lesbian. Later she's sure she's fallen in love with her gay roommate and best friend.

It's the kind of life story that would send most twenty-somethings into a tail-spin. And though She breaks down in tears and swears at the world, she keeps on going. She keeps getting out of bed in the morning, hopes renewed against all odds.

Australian director Elise McCredie makes her feature debut with Strange Fits of Passion, and though it's not a barn-burner, it's a professional, accomplished job. She provides a few excellent set-pieces, such as a nighttime swim in a rooftop pool that passerby can see from below. She's home-life with her noisy, messy roommates who pop in and out of each other's rooms feels authentic, as does the grimy little bookstore where She broods away her afternoons. McCredie also captures a rainy, lonely Australia different from the wide open spaces we're used to seeing.

Strange Fits of Passion could have fallen flat, but anyone who has ever pined away for a special mystery someone will find themselves here. And that's what most movies are all about, aren�t they?

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