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Snakes and Ladders

Martin Sean Hughes Dan Paudge Behan Dave Pierce Turner Nora Rosaleen Linehan

Martin Sean Hughes Dan Paudge Behan Dave Pierce Turner Nora Rosaleen Linehan

Trish McAdam’s nicely acted feature debut, “Snakes and Ladders,” is a very small, though quite amiable comedy about the ups and downs of a tumultuous but rewarding female friendship. Set in Dublin, pic lacks real edge or any narrative surprises, but it’s still a likely bet for theatrical release, almost guaranteed to please its primary target audience of young urban women.

Roommates Jean (Pom Boyd) and Kate (Gina Moxley) are trying to eke out a modest living as comic street performers. They are also best friends, that is, until Jean’s musician b.f., Martin (Sean Hughes), asks her to marry him. Both shocked and touched by his proposal, which takes place in the ladies room, Jean consents, failing to realize its effects on her relationship with the very single Kate.

In contrast, Jean’s ultra-bourgeois mother, Nora (Rosaleen Linehan), is ecstatic, exerting pressure on her daughter to have the “most perfect” and elaborate wedding. With all this commotion around her, Jean panics and, totally out of control, throws herself into an affair with a hand-some but insensitive TV producer, Dan (Paudge Behan). The wedding is canceled, Jean gets a job hosting a new music TV program — and the hopelessly romantic Martin is truly heartbroken.

In what surely is the film’s most cliched device, a single consolatory night spent by Kate with the saddened Martin results in her pregnancy and then strong determination to keep the baby. From there on, the story follows a predictable path, with its rather familiar share of misunderstandings, veiled mystery over the identity of the baby’s father, arguments and reconciliations within the triangle of characters, and so on, culminating in a rousing finale.

Despite its interesting milieu, “Snakes and Ladders” is a minor, harmless picture that lacks fresh angles or vigorous motivations to tell its tale. Pic also suffers from an overinsistent determination to entertain and gratify its viewers at all costs. For the most part, however, humor is broad and not witty enough, particularly in the episodes in which Nora convenes with her suburbanite friends in their “Dead Husband’s Club.”

Still, even when the film begins to falter, as it does in the later sections, helmer McAdam’s touch remains reasonably steady. For a first-time filmmaker, she shows great facility with her talented ensemble. As the central trio, Boyd, Moxley, and Hughes invest their roles with a certain charm, performing far beyond the familiar dimensions of their characterizations.

Snakes and Ladders

(IRISH-GERMAN)

Production: A Livia Films production. (International sales: Miramax Intl.) Produced by Lilyan Sievernich. Executive producer, Chris Sievernich. Directed, written by Trish McAdam.

Crew: Camera (color), Dietrich Lohmann; editor, Peter Przygodda; Pierce Turner; production design, Frank Hallinan Flood; costume design, Joan Bergin; sound (Dolby), Andreas Koppen; assistant director, Lisa Mulcahy; casting, Nuala Moiselle. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 10, 1996. Running time: 92 MIN.

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