Love is in the Air marks Delta Goodrem’s first film role since the 2005 high school dramedy Hating Alison Ashley, in which she plays a Sandy Olsson-esque student with holier-than-thou vibes. Goodrem is more salt of the earth and more bloody Strayan as a seaplane pilot in Netflix’s very corny and saccharine romance: a galumphing heffalump of a movie that is best – and perhaps only – enjoyed by devotees of the Sydney-born performer. Most audiences will emerge from this formulaic and hammily acted production feeling like they’ve inhaled a block of cheese the size of a car battery.
Goodrem’s chirpy character Dana has Santa Claus-ish vibes, whizzing around communities off the coast of far-north Queensland to deliver parcels to people in need. I didn’t believe she was a pilot any more than I believe a plump man in a red suit squeezes through chimneys every December. But the protagonist isn’t the only implausible thing about this film: everything and everyone in it feels so very fake and contrived, as if beaming in from a bizarro synthetic world of simulated human emotions and Hallmark sentiment.
It’s supposed to be an uplifting experience, following two “opposites attract” lovers who get struck by Cupid’s arrow and engage in the expected to-and-fro before finally – literally – flying off into the sunset together. But nothing pops or sparks, including the central romance between Dana and Joshua Sasse’s corporate executive William: a snobbish, close-mouthed Brit straight out of central casting. Working for a finance company under the eye of his even less likable father (Hugh Parker), William arrives in Australia with a plan to liquidate Fullerton Airways, the small family business owned by Dana and her dad Jeff (Roy Billing).
Once William experiences some good old-fashioned small-town decency and glistening oceanic environments that look ripped out of travel brochures, he’ll fall in love and see the world from another Point of View. The DB Boulevard song of the same name doesn’t play on the soundtrack, but if it did nobody would bat an eyelid given the unrelenting obviousness of Adrian Powers’ direction.
The screenplay (by Powers, Caera Bradshaw and Katharine McPhee) is also terribly on the nose, signposting everything so far in advance that all major plot points can be easily predicted. For instance, early on when Dana and William land on a small island to deliver mail, one local says: “Hey, you heard about that nasty weather brewing off the coast?” Near instantly we can predict subsequent scenes involving brave missions during a terrible storm. Yet the writers repeat this unsubtle inference 15 minutes later via a TV broadcast reporting dire weather, prompting Jeff to yelp “Yikes, I hope that one fizzles out!”
In one cringey moment, Jeff walks out of a hangar, coffee mug in hand, and says aloud to himself: “Where else would you rather be?” This is his paradise, his Eden, despite the business’s ballooning costs and tanking bottom line. He warns Dana and airline mechanic Nikki (Steph Tisdell) that “if we’re gonna stay in the air, we’re gonna have to focus on profit”. But this horribly adult concept rubs up against the film’s airy-fairy idealism. So Dana promptly shuts him down with some guilt-tripping: “Remote air supply is the reason Mum started Fullerton Airways,” she says, a framed photograph of mother adorning a nearby wall. A shot of it of course will be inserted into the schmaltzy finale.
There’s a cricket scene on the tarmac so bad it plays like parody, culminating with Dana hitting the ball for six then performing a celebratory twirl. Another has Dana and William lying on the tarmac, looking up at the night sky, Dana pointing out various constellations, commenting that: “When push comes to shove, a pilot can always count on them to point the way.” Goodrem’s performance is far from great, but delivering lines like that without blushing does require some talent.
The tranquility of this moment beneath the stars is shattered by the sound of a koala, which upsets William. “This country’s too much!” he exclaims. I felt like saying: mate, you don’t know how good you’ve got it, given the cinematic experiences of many other foreigners – from Gary Bond in Wake in Fright, obliterated by the heat and booze, to Johnathon Schaech in Welcome to Woop Woop, stranded in an off-the-map town populated by ferals. Although to be fair I might prefer to be around stubbie-cracking yobbos than the characters in Love is in the Air. When Jeff at one point exclaims “Isn’t this a dog’s breakfast?” I thought for a moment he had somehow punched through into the reality above him and was talking about the film itself.
Love is in the Air is streaming on Netflix