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Blondie

The cast's high profile will ensure interest at home, but abroad, distribs will be far more skeptical.

With:
With: Carolina Gynning, Helena af Sandeberg, Alexandra Dahlstrom, Marie Goranzon, Olle Sarri, Alva Springfeldt, Tindra Rohbrahn, Jonathan Silen. (Swedish, French, English dialogue)

The problems of three wealthy, good-looking Swedish sisters and their icy grand dame of a mom are worried over with dull earnestness in “Blondie,” writer-helmer Jesper Ganslandt’s third feature. At first blush, the material invites comparisons with classic Scandi studies of bourgeois psychodynamics by the likes of Ingmar Bergman, seeing as venerable thesp Marie Goranzon plays the matriarch, but that would be like saying American cheese is a bit like Stilton. The cast’s high profile will ensure interest at home, but abroad, distribs will be far more skeptical.

In a flurry of clunky cross-cuts, characters are introduced in the opening reel in their natural habitats before the clan reunites in the rural Swedish family manse for the 70th birthday party of mother Sigrid (Goranzon), the kind of posh femme who’s briskly transferred all maternal affection to her dogs rather than to her children or grandchildren. Eldest sister Katarina (Helena af Sandeberg), a high-achiever since childhood, is a doctor, and married to Janne (Olle Sarri) with whom she has two cute young daughters (Alva Springfeldt and Tindra Rohbrahn). Middle sister Elin (Carolina Gynning, a former model) is a well-paid professional clotheshorse living in Paris, and youngest Lova (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is doing something in London that’s not well-defined.

All three girls have dark sides: Katarina is having a torrid affair with a junior doctor (Jonathan Silen), Elin has a coke habit and harbors deep resentment against her sisters for being more loved by their mother, and Lova … well, it’s never quite clear what’s wrong with her, but the pic’s press notes suggest she’s feeling suicidal.

Semi-improvised dialogue and lots of handheld lensing by Linda Wassberg strive to create a spontaneous atmosphere, but the events feel all-too predictable, from the disastrous birthday party interrupted by the irritating Elin’s attention-seeking behavior, to a sudden health scare for Sigrid that partially brings the sisters closer together. As if hoping to impose some stronger sense of structure, the narrative is broken into three acts, announced with title cards, and introduced with literally moving snapshots of the characters, posed as if sitting for formal portraits.

This kind of soapy drama can only really work on the back of strong performances, but the acting here is patchy throughout. Gynning, the least experienced thesp, is called on to do the heaviest dramatic lifting, and she struggles under the weight, although she’s ripely photogenic from every angle, as are Af Sandeberg and Dahlstrom (the latter a child star in 1998’s “Show Me Love”). Old pro Goranzon lends solid support with her pinched, ungenerous Sigrid, but the part is ultimately too underwritten to balance out sympathies. Olle Sarri, star of Ganslandt’s previous “The Ape,” proves a scene-stealer in portraying the hapless, alcoholic husband — a befuddled, isolated man lost in the sea of estrogen that rages all around him.

Blondie

Sweden

Production: A Fasad production in co-production with Film i Vast, SVT, Dagaljus, with the support of the Swedish Film Institute, Media. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Jesper Kurlandsky Co-producers, Jessica Ask, Gunnar Carlsson. Directed, written by Jesper Ganslandt.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Linda Wassberg; editors, Anna Ivanova, Johan Bjerkner; music, Fredrik Emilson; production designer, Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth; costume designer, Denise Ostholm; sound (stereo), Tobias Ronnertz, Robert Leib, Andreas Franck; visual effects supervisor, Torbjorn Olsson; visual effects, Filmtech; stunt coordinator, Martin Zetterlund; casting, Fredrik Fornanger Feber, Anna Brandeby. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Sept. 3, 2012. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Vanguard.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Carolina Gynning, Helena af Sandeberg, Alexandra Dahlstrom, Marie Goranzon, Olle Sarri, Alva Springfeldt, Tindra Rohbrahn, Jonathan Silen. (Swedish, French, English dialogue)

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