The Price of Milk (2000)


(director/writer: Harry Sinclair; cinematographer: Leon Narbey; editor: Cushla Dillon; music: Anatol Liadov, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Sergei Rachmaninoff, performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra; cast: Danielle Cormack (Lucinda), Karl Urban (Rob), Willa O’Neill (Drosophila), Michael Lawrence (Bernie), Rangi Motu (Auntie); Runtime: 87; Lot 47; 2000-New Zealand)
“This film features one dumb story line.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This film features one dumb story line. It’s a whimsical love fable about airheads that is set in New Zealand’s rural farm country. The characters good cheer wears thin after the first reel, and the only sure thing about this bizarre tale is how predictable its outcome will be. The Price of Milk is an unnecessary film that makes a big fuss over nothing. The idea behind the story is to start from how a fairy-tale ends, with the blissful hero and heroine living happily ever after in their rundown shack with their agoraphobic dog Nigel who walks around under a cardboard box. But director and writer Harry Sinclair reasons that no one can live under such ideal conditions for long, as he asks: If everything is perfect, could you ruin it?

There are lots of cows, rolling green hills, Russian music in the background, and Maoris playing golf, in a film that looks pretty and acts dumb.

The attractive Lucinda (Danielle Cormack) has found her dream mate in nice guy dairy farmer Rob (Karl Urban) who has 175 cows he addresses by their number, but things start going wrong when Lucinda accidentally hits an elderly Maori woman called Auntie (Rangi Motu) on the road with her pickup. Auntie gets up angry but unharmed and wanders off after uttering a warning to always stay warm; soon the insecure Lucinda becomes fearful of her upcoming marriage thinking that maybe Rob doesn’t love her. Her deceitful girlfriend Drosophila (Willa O’Neill) gives her bad advice, as she tells her to test Rob by causing conflicts and see how mad she can get him to prove to herself that he loves her. She thereby takes a bath in his milk vat, causing him to lose $1,500 worth of milk that is now contaminated. Things begin going downhill for the couple when Auntie’s nephews steal the couple’s quilt while they are still sleeping and give it to Auntie to keep warm, and in order to get the quilt back Lucinda trades Rob’s valuable cows. They are worth $400,00, and this is finally too much of a shock for him as he loses his voice and starts speaking in a squeaky whisper. The film could never recover from such a swap because it made no sense, was not funny, and made all the characters ridiculous and not worth caring about. With Lucinda out of Rob’s picture, Drosophila goes to work trying to rope the solid guy into her corral. But Lucinda fights back.

Mr. Sinclair first cast the actors and then worked on the script, changing it on the run to fit the talents of the cast.

The film has nothing to say, is dense, and has no magic in a story that attempted to be supernatural. I even doubt if it was a fairy-tale. It can best be described as a fantasy about airheads who live on a farm near the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, who feel compelled to steal from their more prosperous white neighbors.