1993 Directed by Stewart Main, Peter Wells. Starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Kevin Smith, Lisa Chappell, Cliff Curtis, Michael Hurst, Kiri Mills.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 8, 1994
Overripe like a kiwi gone over way back in the fridge, this New Zealand import is so chock-full of sexual, moral, intellectual, and filmic ambiguity that it's hard to take seriously as a melodrama or a comedy. Set in a crown colony (presumably Australia) in the 1860s, Desperate Remedies tells the story of newly arrived immigrant Lawrence Hayes (Smith) and his descent into the sexually garish, morally gothic quagmire of Dorothea Brook (Ward-Lealand) and her sometime lover/companion Anne (Chappell). Dorothea is debating the wisdom of marrying weasely ex-lover William (Hurst) in order to secure financial independence for her drapery business, while another former bedmate, the craven opium dealer Fraser (Curtis, in a powerfully squirmy role that makes one hunger for several hours in the bath) has seduced her sister Rose (Mills) with sex, drugs, and -- one presumes -- rock & roll. If this is beginning to take on the flavor of a particularly nasty episode of Melrose Place, it should, because that's more or less all it is: treachery to the manor born with a bit of nudity and drugs thrown in for good measure. Directors Wells and Main manage to hold your attention only through sheer force of set design: it's as if Ken Russell had taken time off Lair of the White Worm to drop by and advise on the stylistic integrity of The Colour Red. Meant as a visual counterpoint to the film's sexually perverse tendencies, Desperate Remedies is swathed in crimson from stem to stern, and eventually, the costumes and sets become far, far more interesting than the story itself. What was obviously begun as a Victorian gothic along the lines of Dangerous Liaisons has ended up as a smarmy, misguided stab at contemporary sexual mores (or maybe not; it's hard to tell with this one, and even harder to care) that is in need of its own desperate remedy.