Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, November 12, 1998

Danielle Cormack plays twins Chrissy
and Carol in "Via Satellite."

Family conflicts, secrets
set ‘Satellite’ spinning

This is the fourth of five reviews of feature films
nominated for the Hawaii International Film Festival
Maile Awards. The last film will be reviewed tomorrow.

By Burl Burlingame


Via Satellite STAR STAR1/2
Not rated, Screening 5:30 p.m. Monday at Maui Arts and Cultural Center, and 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kauai Community College. Call: 528-HIFF

THE woman around whom the mixed-up characters in "Via Satellite" orbit is so conflicted that she has become two people. That's kind of dramatic, but there you have it.

HIFF Logo Chrissy Dunn, a rather aimless and angry young woman, is left to tread water by her blindingly focused identical twin Carol, an athlete whose swimming prowess has electrified her native New Zealand and landed her at the Olympics.

Chrissy is pleased by her sister's success, though the media squall that follows is annoying. A TV station wants the Dunn family to talk to Carol at the competitions via satellite hook-up, and Chrissy would rather not have any part of it. It's embarrassing, and worse, there's no achievement in it.

Besides -- Mom is dotty; older sister Jen is married to a knuckleheaded electronics repairman; younger sister Lyn has been knocked up, detouring an imagined acting career; and the TV cameraman -- horrors! -- turns out to be a chap Chrissy enjoyed a one-nighter with. Yikes!

The rest of the family is so excited about the impending TV link that you'd think Buddha himself was dropping in. Greed and ego kick in, and things get predictably complicated, amusingly so.

"Via Satellite" then drops an enormous Family Secret on the proceedings that manages to suck the oxygen out of the room. Indeed, all the characters get the pinched, bloody-eyed look test animals get in pressure chambers.

Nothing wrong with Family Secrets. They tend to inject juice into almost anything. But this fairly light-hearted romp staggers under the load and never quite gets off its knees thereafter.

The actual satellite connection turns out to be rather sweet. The family forgets about the mode of connection and is genuinely connected to their far-off sibling and daughter. In this case, the message is the medium.

Despite the distance, Chrissy and Carol lock into a tight, spiral orbit. Chrissy has been on display for most of the film, and she's intense and anti-social to the point of strangeness.

Mostly seen as an shallow icon of flashy hero-worship on TV screens, Carol turns out to level-headed and concerned, which confounds our expectations. Together, they seem like one whole person.

Both parts are played by Danielle Cormack, upon whom the camera never seems to get a fix. She is lightning in a bottle. Rima Te Wiata plays the desperate older sister, and it's on her plain pudding-face that the weight of the movie settles. They're excellent in what is, in most respects, an average film.

Do It Electric!

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