Directed by Emma-Kate Croghan

Starring Alice Garner, Frances O'Connor, Matthew Dyktynski & Matt Day.

"Love & Other Catastrophes"

Opened: April 11, 1997 | Rated: R

I have a weakness for life-at-college movies. I mean, most folks enjoy classic campus flicks like "The Graduate" or "Animal House," but I even have "Threesome" on tape -- that admittedly dreadful dreck from 1994 starring Lara Flynn Boyle as one of three dormmates with overlapping sex lives. It's a sickness, really.

I think it has something to do with the fact that my college days have been spent taking a full load of classes, working full-time day job and writing full-time (I'm in my sixth year of this). I live vicariously through these movies.

So it was a given that I would get a kick out of "Love and Other Catastrophes," an Australian film student's low budget, warmly screwball take on professors, parties, term papers and sex.

Little of this picture is noticeably fresh, but all of it is underwritten with ironic wit. Alice (Alice Garner) is a graduate student whose thesis, "Doris Day as a Feminist Warrior," is in perpetual limbo. Mia (Frances O'Connor) can't make up her mind about anything -- she spends half the movie changing majors and the other half waffling over her love life.

Ari (Matthew Dyktynski) is working his way through school as a gigolo, and Alice has a crush on him. Michael (Matt Day) is a serious medical student stuck with party hardy roommates.

Since college-life movies invariable cover much of the same territory, the key to success in this genre is in the characters.

"Love" provides a complex and witty bunch that falls somewhere between the intellectuals of Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" and the generic fashion plates from Fox's short-lived college dramedy "Class of '96." They're the kind of aimless 20-somethings that are good for a robust evening of laughs, but whom you'd probably forget after graduation.

One thing that does make "Love and Other Catastrophes" unique is its entirely incidental treatment of Mia's homosexuality. It's refreshing to see a gay character whose sexuality is not front and center in the story. However, the nonchalant approach does fall down in two respects: One, among Mia's gay friends there is not a butch in the bunch -- every lesbian on this campus is as girlie as a Barbie doll. Two, none of these horny college guys fall for -- or even hit on -- any of these comely gay girls. Highly unlikely.

Forgettable fun, "Love & Other Catastrophes" will come and go without much notice, but it is an admirable first effort from 23-year-old co-writer and director Emma-Kate Croghan. She followed the old rule of "write what you know" to an entertaining end and will not likely disappear as quickly as her movie.

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