Thank God He Met Lizzie” is a slim romantic comedy in which, during the wedding celebrations of a handsome, thirtysomething couple, the groom is troubled with recollections of a previous relationship. Helped enormously by a bright cast that should ensure an opening in its home territory, pic, which plays more like a telemovie than a theatrical feature, is too thin and predictable to be of much interest internationally. TV sales are more likely in the short term.
The trouble with this debut from director Cherie Nowlan is that it contains nothing new. The stock situations in Alexandra Long’s screenplay have been the staples of romantic comedy for years, and were written with more wit and precision 40 or 50 years ago. There’s also something awkward about the film’s structure, which revolves around a tony wedding reception but starts off with a handful of routine scenes in which Guy (Richard Roxburgh) is seen searching for the perfect partner at parties and on dates. Pic could have benefited from cutting to the chase and opening with the wedding itself, inserting the flashbacks thereafter.
Guy meets Lizzie (Cate Blanchett), a doctor, when he’s trying to help a stray cat about to give birth. It’s love at first sight, and soon the attractive pair are planning a sumptuous wedding, preparations for which are overseen by Lizzie’s snobbish mother (Linden Wilkinson). But, in the middle of the celebration, Guy finds his thoughts drawn to Jenny (Frances O’Connor), the exuberant working-class girl he lived with when he was in his 20s. As the wedding proceeds, flashbacks to the happy times experienced by Guy and Jenny (making love in a clothing store, setting up house together, decorating the Christmas tree while naked) force him to realize that the woman he’s marrying is almost a stranger.
By far the film’s most enjoyable sequences are the flashbacks charting the Guy-Jenny relationship to its inevitable conclusion; best scene is one in which they break the news to Jenny’s parents that they’ve decided to separate. O’Connor (“Love and Other Catastrophes,” “Kiss or Kill”) effortlessly steals the film with her ebullient performance, tilting the balance away from the wedding scenes, in which Blanchett is a rather pallid Lizzie. Several of the supporting characters come across as cliched, through no fault of a strong cast of actors.
Guy’s devotion to a Vietnamese orphan he’s sponsored comes across as a strained plot device, especially when it’s brought to the fore late in the film. Ultimate message (that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and that happiness is something you appreciate only in retrospect) is hardly an original one.
Tech credits are modest but serviceable.