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Rule No. 1
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by Collin Souter

"Standard Rom-Com #...Oh, wait, this one is actually good."
4 stars

(SCREENED AT THE 2004 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL) “Rule no. 1” didn’t exactly win me over right away. I have grown somewhat intolerant as of late by the Conventional Romantic Comedy and this movie certainly fits the genre. Still, something about it makes it a cut above the rest. Perhaps because the movie has more on its mind than finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. “Rule no. 1” were it an American multiplex excursion, would be your standard Date Movie starring Brittany Murphy or Meg Ryan, but there’s another side to it that helps it rise above your average “Chasing Someone Like Kate & Leopold in Seattle.”

“Rule no. 1,” Caroline’s sister says. “When you’re sad, don’t talk about sad things.” Caroline (Susanne Juhasz), our Romantic Comedy heroine, must try to follow this rule and many others after she catches her husband cheating on her in a restroom stall. Following this humiliating incident, Caroline must start fresh in the dating world with her sister Sarah (Mira Wanting) as her guide and a set of rules, every one of which is “Rule no. 1.” Through a series of dates involving skydiving, war re-enactments, karaoke, prison and jealous lovers, Caroline begins to re-evaluate her life regarding men, her health and her relationship with her sister.

Though Rule no. 1 wants to leave its audience trading stories about their worst dates, the movie really tells the story of these two sisters with the troubled past. Sarah immediately takes pity on Caroline, but we discover later that Sarah has been looking to make amends with her after failing to donate a kidney that would have helped restore Caroline’s health years ago. No longer on dialysis, Caroline simply wants to start anew, grateful that she no longer requires 24-hour treatment.

Caroline does not walk through the world without hope, just without a sense of belonging. Without her sister to push her into the dating world, Caroline would probably be a stay-at-home wallflower. Yet, through these encounters with men who don’t stand a chance with her, she finds a strong sense of pride and an uncompromising reluctance to fall victim to an insincere suitor. Only one prospect, Sebastian (Thomas Levin), offers a ray of hope for her.

Oliver Ussing has written a nice script (co-written by Morton Dragsted) that keeps us amused at the absurdities of Caroline’s predicaments before it finally lets us know that the film has very little to do with the dating world and everything to do with a family bond, in which there exists no rules. I kind of wished the movie would have stayed more focused on that predicament instead of spending so much time treading on familiar rom-com grounds, but the cast manages to make that fluffy side of the story an enjoyable one. “Rule no. 1” doesn’t break any rules, nor make any new ones, but as a movie that plays by them, it plays like a re-run you actually don’t mind watching again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of this review can also be found in the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival Guide, also written by Collin Souter.

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originally posted: 10/08/04 23:26:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

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6/07/09 brae mate Dun fun over quirky- a fav 4 stars
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