(Air Date: Week Of 9/6/87)
The advertising for "Castaway" promises romance on an idyllic island. This sort of promotion may be a publicist's dream, but audiences expecting a Harlequin-style fantasy won't find one in the new Nicolas Roeg film starring Oliver Reed and newcomer Amanda Donahoe. Instead the film asks author Lucy Irvine's question, "Why do I have to be stuck on an island with HIM of all people in such a potentially wonderful situation?"
At 25, Lucy a former clerk, monkey keeper and waitress, was looking for adventure when she responded to Gerald Kingsland's magazine ad: "Writer seeks 'wife' for year on tropical island". It was 1981, London was preparing for the first installment in the never-ending media saga of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Despite her reservations, Lucy agreed to marry Gerald in order to satisfy Australian immigration restrictions. She also learned that she would have to finance the trip as Gerald was broke. The less-than-happy couple wound up on Tuin, between New Guinea and Australia. Thirteen months later, Lucy returned to England alone, and her vividly written best-selling book on her experiences was dedicated to Gerald and published in 1984, six months before Gerald's "The Islander" saw print.
There is plenty of nudity in "Castaway", but not much sex. In Roeg's film, sex becomes a metaphor for power. Although Gerald, on his third island trip, is supposed to be the more experienced of the pair in matters of survival, Lucy actually thrives better on the island than he does. Sexual dependency on the frightened, complaining Gerald, who, as Lucy correctly observes, "copes with pain by sheathing himself in indifference" seems as unappealing to us as it does to Lucy. Gerald perks up a bit towards the end of the year, when he does mechanical repair work for nearby islanders. Losing her hold on Gerald, Lucy acts her way through sex with him, a power play which works.
Oliver Reed, nearly fifty, gives a heart-wrenching performance as a man who knows every trick in the book, except how to hide from himself and Lucy. With her first film, Amanda Donahoe portrays the resourceful, intelligent Lucy with a serene self-confidence any screen veteran would envy. Nicolas Roeg's vision of Tuin includes dazzling shots of clouds washing over the moon, as well as the pitiless depiction of this mis-matched pair who learn to depend on each other in spite of themselves. Roeg and Reed took an admirable risk revealing the interior toll of false machismo, and for that reason I have a hunch men will be more uncomfortable with this film than women.
Copyright 1987 Monica Sullivan
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