So little rings true that only modest chuckles are wrung from “I Love You Too,” an overlong Aussie romantic comedy about an emotionally stunted guy who can’t muster the titular words his marriage-minded g.f. longs to hear. Saddled with an implausible central relationship and abrasive tonal shifts from raunchy comedy to grief and melancholy, pic is partially rescued by imported star Peter Dinklage as a worldly widower helping the clueless protag find his voice. A heavy promotional campaign prior to May 6 local release should attract undiscriminating auds in substantial numbers before a fast B.O. burnout.
The feature debut of highly regarded TV helmer Daina Reid, pic strains credibility from the outset. Jim (Brendan Cowell), a 33-year-old man-boy who still wears superhero wristwatches and works at a miniature railroad in Melbourne, has somehow managed a three-year relationship with Alice (Yvonne Strahovski), an upscale, educated English girl. Script hammers Jim’s immaturity in so deep he sometimes appears mentally challenged; it beggars belief that sophisticated Alice could have fallen for him in the first place.
Nevertheless, Alice is thinking marriage. Unable to extract even an “I love you, too” from her intended, Alice ankles the relationship and signals a return to Blighty. News of the split is welcomed by Jim’s best mate, Blake (Peter Helliar, also scripting and co-producing). A burly bloke whose babes-‘n’-beer philosophy delivers a few chuckles amid much irritating overplaying, Blake figures a return to the singles bar scene is all Jim needs.
At this point auds may well be wishing Alice the best in a life without Jim. But Helliar’s script has an ace up its sleeve in the diminutive form of Charlie (Dinklage). An American photographer who lost his beloved Aussie wife four years ago, Charlie has written — but cannot bring himself to deliver — a letter to a seemingly unattainable model he admires. Improbably thrown together, Jim and Charlie hit it off. Dinklage is terrific, whether offering Jim pithy advice on the ways to a woman’s heart or making palpable Charlie’s grief and deeply embedded sense of loyalty to his late wife.
Although Charlie’s story is more engrossing than Jim’s and little is gained from detours into the depressing home life of Jim’s sister Marie (Bridie Carter) and her hopeless husband, Owen (Travis McMahon), the pic rolls along reasonably well to its inevitable conclusion.
Performance-wise, it’s Dinklage’s show. Aussie thesp du jour Cowell (“Beneath Hill 60”) is miscast and struggles to convince. Matters are not helped by Jim’s hairdo, which rivals Benicio del Toro’s Moe Howard mop in “The Wolfman” as hair-don’t of the year. “Chuck” TV series star Strahovski is charming, and model-actress Megan Gale hits the perfect note as the unexpectedly vulnerable object of Charlie’s affections.
David Hirschfelder’s peppy score and d.p. Ellery Ryan’s neat compositions stand out in a modest but thoroughly pro technical package.