Lonely Hearts (1982)


(director/writer: Paul Cox; screenwriter: John Clarke; cinematographer: Yuri Sokol; editor: Tim Lewis; music: Norman Kaye; cast: Wendy Hughes (Patricia Curnow), Norman Kaye (Peter Thompson), Jon Finlayson (George), Julia Blake (Pamela), Jonathan Hardy (Bruce), Irene Inescort (Patricia’s mother), Vic Gordon (Patricia’s father), Ron Falk (Wig Salesman), Ted Grove-Rogers (Peter’s Father), Margaret Steven (Patricia’s psychiatrist); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Phillip Adams; MGM Home Entertainment, The; 1982-Australia)

“One of my all-time favorites.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Paul Cox (“Kostas”/”My First Wife”/”A Woman’s Tale”) helms and cowrites with John Clarke this neo-realistic comedy gem, one of my all-time favorites. It’s about the repression and humiliation of two adults, who despite a dreary courtship find the courage to overcome their neurotic behavior and start life over again by beginning a romance. The droll intelligent comedy is surprisingly cheeky and highly amusing; it wowed me with how its subdued set pieces were so sensible, gentle, well-observed, witty, marvelously acted and very funny.

Peter Thompson (Norman Kaye) is a rug wearing lonely bachelor piano-tuner pushing 50 who meets through a Melbourne lonely-hearts dating service, after his mother dies and leaves him with no obligations, the pretty but sexually repressed thirtysomething named Patricia Curnow (Wendy Hughes).

Peter is a lovable character, with a disarming sense of humor. It’s hard to believe he’s anything but a straight and narrow guy, but he pulls such things as pretending to be blind while at work. In his spare time he acts in an amateur theater production of Strindberg’s The Father (which is delightfully skewered in a parody), and gets the timid Patricia a part in the play. Bank office worker Patricia has been smothered all her life by her overbearing parents, especially her control-freak father (Vic Gordon) from hell. She sees a shrink about her inability to face life and her pathological fear of sex, which were obviously induced by her parents. The shrink helps her have the courage to date. The two love starved characters have an awkwardly dull dating relationship, where the highlight after a few weeks is when he takes her to play bingo. One night she agrees to sleep in the same bed with him if he agrees on no hanky-panky. But when he can’t resist the temptation and puts some moves on her, she storms out of his apartment. How these soul mates get back together is brilliantly worked out after both go through some humiliation–he gets picked up for shoplifting two dollars worth of groceries and she gets tormented by her over-protective father who demands she quit the play.