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With: Karl Urban, Danielle Cormack, Willa O'Neill, Michael Lawrence, Rangi Motu
Written by: Harry Sinclair
Directed by: Harry Sinclair
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug use and sensuality/nudity
Running Time: 87
Date: 09/13/2000
IMDB

The Price of Milk (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Non-Fat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

About five minutes into the New Zealand export The Price of Milk, any worries we may have had that this would be an ordinary romantic comedy fade away. Rob (Karl Urban) chases Lucinda (Danielle Cormack) out of their humble little farmhouse. He comes to a big, open field and Lucinda is nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, there she is, right behind him, happily giggling and in love.

It's a small moment, and really doesn't have much to do with the plot, but what it does is give us a rulebook. We know that space and time and other laws of nature do not apply in The Price of Milk. Scholars have begun calling this effect "magical realism," and it's most welcome in a romantic comedy.

Rob and Lucinda share a perfectly happy life raising their 117 cows, washing dishes while bathing in an outdoor bathtub, and fighting over their big, fluffy quilt as they sleep at night. But Lucinda begins to wonder if their love is fading, so she begins to test Rob. In one scene, she jumps into a vat of sterilized milk. He gets mad, but can't stay mad and jumps in with her. But the tests grow bigger and bigger. When a Maori woman (whom Lucinda accidentally plows into with her truck) and her army of nephews steal their big quilt, Lucinda trades the 117 cows to get the quilt back.

From there, things get pretty silly. Rob gets so mad his voice comes out in a squeak. He begins sleeping out in his truck and ignoring his true love. Lucinda pretends to be "the Jacksons," a group of little people who sneak into houses at night and leave gifts. It helps that Lucinda keeps a secret collection of baby shoes on hand to leave the footprints with.

Though we basically spend the movie's 87 minutes waiting for the lovers to get back together, writer-director Harry Sinclair keeps things interesting for that time. His visual humor, using the expansive green lands to juxtapose the silly little humans, and his sight gags, such as Lucinda wrestling with a rubber glove, are inspired and lucid. Sinclair is aware of natural spaces and silences and uses them to air out the movie and make it seem less a product and more lifelike.

Lead actors Urban and Cormack, both of whom have guested on "Xena: Warrior Princess," have a rugged earthiness that most Hollywood actors lack. (Urban can next be seen in the upcoming Lord of the Rings.) They seem at home with their bodies and seem to have lived real lives of physical activity and not just spent time with a personal trainer. Neither seem to care what they look like, and just go about the day as soon as they roll out of bed. It's refreshing and lends a relaxed country-fresh air to the film. It's a film we can truly inhale.