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Albert Lanier spots some LITTLE FISH that look surprisingly like Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with Albert Lanier out of Hawaii who has a review of the Cate Blanchett/Hugo Weaving/Sam Neill drama, LITTLE FISH. The flick went around festivals for a while and now it's coming to DVD next Tuesday. He got to see it on the big screen at the Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Super Gala Extreme or whatever it's called. Enjoy the review.

by Albert Lanier

Jenny Heart is a 32-year-old blond who lives with her mum and brother in the Little Saigon district of Sydney, Australia. She manages a video shop in Little Saigon and is looking to expand the space next to the shop into an Internet gaming parlor of sorts.

Jenny needs $40,000 to set up the gaming room and also buy out the business from its current owner.

However, early on in LITTLE FISH – which was shown on Sunday, April 2nd at the Hawaii International Film Festival's Spring Showcase in Honolulu – Tracy is turned down for a business loan.

Later on, Tracy gets rejected for another loan from a bank but by then we can see that Tracy's past is causing her problems in the here and now.

A few years back, Tracy was addicted to Heroin and engaged in a bit of credit fraud Рno doubt to help provide her funds for scoring drugs Рbut now, to lapse into clich̩ phrases, she's been clean and sober and gainfully employed.

That's not enough for Tracy. She wants to do more than open up a shop and make someone else money, Tracy wants to be a business owner in charge of her own destiny.

That seems all the more important since the major male figure in her life, a former sports star named Lionel, is an addict himself who is attempting to get off of drugs but is having a hard time of it.

Maybe part of the reason why Lionel is having such a hard time is because his drug source, sometimes boyfriend and local crime lord Brad is retiring from the drug trade and will no longer provide him with the junk he needs to get high.

As if trying to secure a loan and providing occasional tender loving care to Lionel doesn't make Tracy's life more hectic than it is, her ex-boyfriend Jonny suddenly appears as if from nowhere.

Well, not nowhere, Canada actually specifically Vancouver. Jonny visits the Heart household and catches up on old times with Tracy and her brother Ray who lost one of his legs in an accident.

Jonny says that he has got into stocks as a broker and is back in Sydney to work and invest in emerging markets.

Of course, things are not what they seem and some characters are not entirely truthful in LITTLE FISH as the film's story spirals to its inevitable climax and denouement.

What's interesting about LITTLE FISH is that though drug deals and addiction figure prominently within the film's plot and story, LITTLE FISH's filmmakers shy away from the conventional stereotypes and archetypes of junkies, drug lords and former addicts.

The film's script – written by Jacqueline Perske – steers clear of creating one-dimensional characters who are merely marionettes who's motivations and actions are merely driven by a screenwriter's whims and not by any truthfulness or logic.

What Perske does so well here is to plunge her characters into the bloodstream of everyday life and to see an audience witness their foibles and frustrations without resorting to the requisite number of explosions and tantrums meant as an easy way to show emotions coming to the surface.

Perske is aided by a number of first-rate performances from a top-flight cast.

Leading the pack is Cate Blanchett's work as the main protagonist Tracy. What Blanchett does so very well in LITTLE FISH is eliminate any impulse to make her character seem more unique and important than she is-thus doing a star turn- and tap into the fundamentally ordinary nature of Tracy.

Blanchett dials into Tracy's positive attributes – self-discipline, punctuality, reliability – without negating her character's troubled past as a Heroin addict. In a way, Tracy is a tricky character to flesh out because if an actress gives in to the usual acting tricks then Tracy appears to be a run of the mill concoction not a flesh and blood creation.

Hugo Weaving delivers a fine performance as Lionel in what could easily have been a thankless part loaded with stereotypes.

Weaving plays Lionel not as a pathetic loser but as a man of importance who is unable to come to grip with his raging addiction to drugs.

In order for the audience to buy Tracy's devotion to Lionel, we have to see beyond Lionel's drug-addicted shell and glimpse his caring nature. It is to Weaving's credit as an actor that he is able to show the man behind the mask of drug abuse and addiction.

Sam Neill also turns in a good performance in the smaller but important role of local drug lord Brad.

Brad is yet another character that could easily be played in bright colors and broad strokes but Neill is calm and collected as Brad, portraying the character more as successful local businessman type (say restaurant or bar owner) than a flashy, vulgar drug boss seen in countless movies.

Rounding out the main cast are Martin Henderson's fine work as Ray and Dustin Nguyen's able performance as Jonny.

A lot of credit should also go to Director Rowan Woods not only for helping to extract strong performances from his cast but for creating a moody, watery photographic look for the film that creates a sort of visual ambiguity for the characters.

Woods also wisely employs certain kinds of shots well like close-ups – both severe and medium – demonstrating the intimacy of these characters not only with each other but with the audience as well.

LITTLE FISH works so well as a drama because it never hits the audience over the head with clunky exposition and shoddily constructed plot points but allows the actions to unfold and develop almost organically.

One synopsis I read online of LITTLE FISH noted that by the film's end, the characters were like little fish in an ocean.

Maybe. Perhaps Tracy, Jonny, Ray and the others just want swim free. The problem is you never know when a line suddenly cast and you have to getting hooked.

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