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"Cape of Good Hope": South African decoupage has layers of varying depth
Special to The Seattle Times
Like a South African version of "Crash," Mark Bamford's "Cape of Good Hope" takes a multilayered approach to class, race, economics and religion in the post-apartheid era. It's an eye-opener in some ways, though for all of its ambition it ends up focusing on a single character's uncertain love life.
Kate (Debbie Brown) owns several dogs, works for the Good Hope Animal Rescue and flirts with a shy veterinarian (Morne Visser). She's also sleeping with a married man who doesn't treat her very well. Nevertheless, she values her independence and his lack of same.
"I like him married," she claims. "That's his best feature."
Traumatized by the fact that her father left the family when she was a child, she's easily the most complex character. She has a fondness for mild adventure (escaping from a restaurant through the window in the men's room excites her) and a low tolerance for hypocrisy and rationalizations. You never quite know where she's going to go next.
The other characters rarely rise above the level of types: Kate's pathetically self-involved mother, a Muslim couple trying to have a child, a foreign-born black astronomer who is subjected to discrimination from South African blacks, a comic-relief minister who abandons people when they're in peril.
Bamford and his screenwriter wife, Suzanne, may not hit great depths with these characters, but they do keep the narrative flowing, smoothly hopping from Kate's troubles to related stories about a young boy accused of a burglary and a condescending white man who tries to rape his black housekeeper.
Brown's spunky, funny Kate helps hold the piece together, and there are charming bits by the bear-ish Visser and Kamo Masilo as an eavesdropping child who doesn't miss a thing.
Eriq Ebouaney, who had the title role in 2000's "Lumumba," quietly dominates his scenes as the Congolese astronomer who presents his own interpretation of how the universe operates.
What keeps this fresh and likable movie from breaking through to another level is the surfeit of plot twists and wishful thinking that clogs the final reel. In the end, it's all a little too pat.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company