Unlike most critics, I take no joy in composing scathing reviews. I love films – even the shitty ones – so it pains me to cut one down to size. Even if it deserves it. (This might explain why I’ve yet to see Aloha.)
I feel especially bad about writing a negative review of this film, Riz. It’s made by two Aussie indie filmmakers, telling a semi-autobiographical story in 2001 Western Sydney centring on Varun Fernando’s charming lead performance as the titular Riz. Everyone loves Riz – except, perhaps, for Riz, who struggles to bridge the class gap between his upper-class girlfriend (Sophie Hawkshaw) and his working-class mates – and their high expectations.
Riz has a lot of authenticity, a lot of promise. It’s also, sadly, not very good. The story rings true but the dialogue does not, and neither do the performances. I could forgive the rough-edged acting if paired with a similarly rough aesthetic, but instead writer/directors Guido Gonzalez and Shakthidharan rely on a poor mimicry of big budget blockbusters (they’re reportedly inspired by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg). That means an overblown score paired with clumsy lensing, compositions and glaringly artificial lighting. Unfortunately sincere intent can’t mask an unconvincing final product.