Australia / 1999
Director and Writer: Anthony J Bowman
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Claudia Karvan, Angie Milliken, Andrew S Gilbert
Bowman’s film is a romantic comedy of opposites attracted in the final reel but manages to offer a fresh spin by setting the film in Outback Oz, where men are men and attractive women are few and far between. Jack Willis (Hugh Jackman) is a road-train driver whose home is a small town where his best friend is bar-owner Ruby Vale (Claudia Karvan). She’s engaged to the dependable, stolid Hamish (Andrew S Gilbert) but worries that she’s settling for the boring life. Jack has other worries – he’s a secret writer of romantic fiction and when his book is accepted by Sydney publisher Ziggy Keane (Angie Milliken), he takes the pen-name Ruby Vale. Nobody in town would be any the wiser if the book hadn’t become a best-seller and Jack has to persuade Ruby to pretend to be the author of a book she’s not even read!
To make matters worse, the book’s plot is a barely concealed tale of a man’s love for his best friend, who’s engaged to another man, and city-smart Ziggy takes a shine to Jack that isn’t strictly professional. But of course, all’s well that ends well and, at the finale of the film, the two leads are in love and together. Bowman plays neatly with gender stereotyping (Jackman all sensitive, Karvan capable of landing a damn fine punch in a brawl) and if the film doesn’t leap off the screen, the look and the acting make for a pleasant enough journey.