Review: ‘Shake It All About’

The Danes do it again with "Shake It All About," another modern relationships comedy marbled with low-key humor that follows on the heels of pics like "Italian for Beginners" and "Minor Mishaps."

The Danes do it again with “Shake It All About,” another modern relationships comedy marbled with low-key humor that follows on the heels of pics like “Italian for Beginners” and “Minor Mishaps.” Though this one is slickly shot on film and in lustrous widescreen — rather than more grungy DV — and goes no deeper than a coat of nail varnish, this goodhearted, gay-themed lark is pitched at auds of all persuasions. Pic pulled a hunky 600,000 admissions on home turf late last year, though outside Scandi territories, Euro cable looks more realistic. First film by theater director Hella Joof belatedly hits the festival circuit at the same time as another Danish audience pleaser, “Okay.”

Living in gay bliss together are flouncy Jorgen (Troels Lyby) and his husband, architect Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen), who during his birthday party spontaneously suggests the two of them officially tie the knot. However, amid all the merrymaking and drinking, Jacob ends up in the bathroom with Jorgen’s sister-in-law, Caroline (Charlotte Munck), where on impulse they share a kiss and — hey, presto! — Jacob finds he enjoyed it in a nonplatonic way.

In subsequent meetings, the two find the attraction is still there, but they only finally get it on just before Christmas, when both Jorgen and Caroline’s husband, Tom (Jesper Lohmann), an airline pilot, are elsewhere. Unfortunately, Jorgen has previously found an incriminating Polaroid of the pair and, during the yuletide festivities, springs the news on his lover. When Jacob admits the affair, Jorgen drives off in a drunken huff, crashes his car and loses an eye.

It’s clear by the 40-minute mark that “Shake It” isn’t going to take the cliched route into issues like “what is a homosexual?” or “are homosexuals just lapsed heterosexuals?” Film basically plays like a straight relationships comedy in which Jorgen is the cuckolded wife, leaving the plot free to go through the usual arc of the lovers being caught by some friends on a romantic getaway in Sweden (a very funny sequence), Jacob reiterating his love to Jorgen but still carrying on with Caroline, and both the lovers being kicked out by their respective partners. Finale, involving a will-they/won’t-they nailbiter, is straight out of a heterosexual romantic comedy, with a couple of neat twists.

Joof’s theater experience dealing with actors shows in the performances, which, despite the pic’s shortage of rehearsal time, have a fine ensemble chemistry, even down to the large supporting cast that populates the protagonists’ social circle. With its array of full-on stereotypes, from a pipe-smoking lesbian to colorful queens, pic is not for the PC crowd, but the general air of good-natured fun is addictive.

More surprising is the smooth tech package that Joof, along with d.p. Eric Kress, editor Anders Villadsen and technical director Jannik Johanssen, has come up with. Kress’ widescreen lensing, in particular, is crisp and beautifully lit, with a full range of colors without becoming kitsch. And though the movie is more gently humorous than laugh-a-minute hilarious, it has an easy flow without any downtime.

Alas, the pic’s preponderance of bright white makes many of the subtitles unreadable. Those urgently need to be reprinted with dropped shadow or a gray background.

Shake It All About

Denmark-Germany

Production

An Angel Film Distribution release (in Denmark) of an Angel Film (Denmark)/ApolloMedia (Germany) production in association with the Danish Film Institute, TV2 Danmark. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Munich.) Produced by Thomas Gammeltoft, Frank Huebner. Executive producers, Mogens Glad, Poul Erik Lindeborg. Directed by Hella Joof. Technical direction, Jannik Johanssen. Screenplay, Joof, Klaus Bondam, based on an idea by Thomas Gammeltoft, Michael Christoffersen.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Eric Kress; editor, Anders Villadsen; music, Povl Kristian; art director, Peter Grant; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby SR), Morten Degnbol; sound designer, Nino Jacobsen; additional camera, Dirk Bruhl, Jorn Blixt. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Tomorrow), Aug. 27, 2002. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Mads Mikkelsen, Troels Lyby, Charlotte Munck, Jesper Lohmann, Ditte Grabol, Peter Frodin, Nikolaj Steen, Ellen Hillingso, Pernille Hojmark, Ghita Norby, Thomas Winding, Morten Kirkskov, Henning Jensen, Martin Brygmann.
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