One long evening's back-and-forth between suicidal caller and crisis hotline counselor might provide a decent basis for stage or radio dramas, but it's inherently uncinematic --- a hurdle not cleared by Aussie writer-helmer James Balian's first feature "Saturday Night." Earnest but repetitious, unimaginatively penned effort looks destined for modest tube sales.

One long evening’s back-and-forth between suicidal caller and crisis hotline counselor might provide a decent basis for stage or radio dramas, but it’s inherently uncinematic — a hurdle not cleared by Aussie writer-helmer James Balian’s first feature “Saturday Night.” Earnest but repetitious, unimaginatively penned effort looks destined for modest tube sales.

Bracketed by brief outdoor segs, pic is otherwise bound to two interior locales: Twentysomething Mac’s (Aaron Pedersen) small apartment and the utilitarian basement where older Simone (Alison Whyte) works her solo volunteer hotline shift. Already punch-drunk on booze and pills, Mac presents a laddish front, demanding Simone cough up secrets of her own in return for his confessional trust. When heavier emotions tumble out, they’re not very interesting: Mac’s flippancy masks self-loathing, dysfunctional-family issues and despondency over the g.f. he’s driven away. Simone, too, reveals private insecurities. Perfs are capable, though Whyte’s voice of reason comes off rather too easily rattled. Routine character writing and a rote, upbeat wrap drain premise (already semi-successfully mined in Sydney Pollack’s ’65 Poitier/Bancroft vehicle “The Slender Thread”) of much impact. OK tech contribs can’t outmaneuver talky, stagy air.

Saturday Night

(AUSTRALIA)

Production

A Late Saturday Films production in association with the Australian Film Commission. Produced by Charlie Doane. Executive producers, Steve MacDonald, Martin Guinness. Directed, screenplay by James Balian. Camera (color), Steve MacDonald; editor , James Manche; music, Wayne Goodwin; production designer, Helen Baumann. Reviewed at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, March 3, 2000. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

With: Alison Whyte, Aaron Pedersen.
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