ZUS & ZO

NR
Reviews

A Dutch family is sent into a tumult when the heretofore gay Nino (Jacob Derwig) suddenly decides to be married to a woman, Bo (Halina Reijn). His sisters are upset because he plans to sell the family hotel in Portugal, for which they have all cherished dreams. Wanda (Anneke Blok) envisions a gallery featuring her work. Besides her quirky installations which reek Soho, c. 1975, she is also busy making clandestine love with the husband of her sister, Sonja (Monic Hendrickx). Sonja, a journalist, wants a peaceful setting where she can rein in the adulterous impulses of that aforementioned spouse, Hugo (Theu Boermans). The eldest sister, Michelle (Sylvia Poorta), desperately needs an escape from her life as superwoman director of a foundation for war orphans and refugees, which gives her little time for her doctor husband. The sisters scheme to wreck the upcoming nuptials, a battle that seems already half-won, as Nino is secretly still hung up on his ex-boyfriend, TV celebrity chef Felix Delicious (Pieter Embrechts).

Using Chekhov's durably inspirational Three Sisters as a takeoff point, writer-director Paula van der Oest crafts a new style screwball comedy that takes full advantage of the freewheeling attitudes traditionally associated with the Netherlands. "Getting married is so pass!" one of the sisters remarks. "Only the gays are doing that now!" Zus & Zo zips breezily along and the women prove themselves agreeably volatile, messed up and complexly sexy company. Blok is particularly winning, playing what might be deemed the Diane Keaton role of mixed-up, over-intense artiste making all the wrong choices. Hendrickx has a dark beauty and febrile strength as Sonja, who forever seems to be writing the same article about "What Do Women Really Want"? Poorta, who resembles a bulkier Liv Ullmann, has an amusing bossiness that masks a desperately empty interior. Even their no-nonsense mother, as played by Annet Nieuwenhuyzen, is a pragmatic, unsentimental old charmer. Reijn, as the interloper Bo, is a brashly energetic realist--miles away from the sisters in terms of style--who is easily more than a match for this sorority. Boermans, despite a very unprepossessing appearance, actually convinces as a smooth, eternally rutting ladykiller.

However, van der Oest overloads the whimsy (and the pop psychology) when she has Nino divulge his secret desire to be a woman and then appear in drag, as a very unalluring, horse-faced maiden at his own nuptials. One half expects the hunky Felix, who has, of course, shown up to stop the wedding, to run screaming away. But, in the interests of a cloying overall happy ending, he tentatively joins hands with his equine he-she on the beach, and soon all are dancing happily back at the hotel. The viewer's goodwill is strained to the breaking point by this final plot twist (never mind Bo getting pregnant) and the smile engendered by previous developments becomes ever tighter until the winsome fadeout.

--David Noh