The signature achievement of “This Little Love of Mine” is a classic cinematic fool’s errand.
It’s an opulent South Seas island romance shot in Australia, with an Aussie cast headed by Saskia Hampele and Liam McIntyre.
And the decision was made to scrub the Oz right off it, them and everything the least bit colorful about it.
But kudos to Hampele (“A Few Less Men”) and McIntyre (“Spartacus,” “The Flash”) for mastering the bland Midwestern speech of Middle America, no matter how that scrubs any “exotic” touch this pabulum might have managed.
Hampele plays Laura, a high-powered San Francisco lawyer, angling for partner, engaged and on her way…back to Sapphire Cove, the island where she grew up.
The business mogul (Martin Portus, the lone Aussie accent) who shared the island with the natives, and less-well-heeled Anglo locals wants to sign his company over to his grandson. It’s got to happen before his 85th birthday, a deadline for him ceding control.
Laura grew up with grandson “Chip” (McIntyre), but hasn’t seen him in decades. She’s still just the gal to make him sign on the dotted line.
Only he’s living the good life, captain of a charter boat/ferry, beach bumming and what not. The last thing he wants is all that responsibility.
“Not a workaholic like you, but I could put on a suit and get things done. I look great in a suit…Probably.”
So the “workaholic” and the fellow “living on island time,” as Jimmy Buffett would put it, click and clash and haggle and make bets to see whose will wins out. She doesn’t play fair, for starters. And he’s a hard bargainer.
He’ll read “one page for every fun thing you try” here on the island of her youth. Sure. In between emails, Zoom meetings, arm-twisting from her boss (Monette Lee) and distracted calls from her equally ambitious fiance (Craig Horner).
Let the horseback riding/snorkeling etc. begin.
Honestly, this is so dull it barely passes Hallmark Channel muster. Surely somebody considered setting this thing at Christmas time, a Hallmark niche Netflix is going after with a vengeance.
What we have here is a movie made to please Our American Masters, but which has any chance for drama, local color or fun friction — the stuff that sets off “sparks” in a screen romance — bleached right out of it.
The average viewer might be dreaming up improvements to the generic plot and bland characters and sleep-inducing dialogue just from stealing gags and gimmicks from other movies in this genre.
Make the beach bum a real “bum” — loves his rum drinks, avoids responsibility altogether, slinging a lot of the Oz-Island slang. Make him a little sexist or louche, threatened by her.
Turn Laura into a tougher go-getter who labored to lose her accent and “island time” work ethic, only to fall back into “old habits” and her old accent.
Anything would lift this out of its blase “Look at you, all fancy and grown up” banter and hiking, sight-seeing (filmed in North Queensland) and the like.
“Little Love” has very little love, zero stakes and gives the viewer no skin in the game. There’s nothing and no one here to care about.
MPA Rating: TV-G
Cast: Saskia Hampele, Liam McIntyre, Lynn Gilmartin, Lawrence Ola
Credits: Directed by Christine Luby, script by Georgia Harrison. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:31