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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the July 18, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
At the Movies: The Wedding Cow
As everybody from Jack Kerouac to Bob Hope and Bing
Crosby can attest, the road can be a heck of a good place to tell
a story. Whether it be comedy or drama, travel implies adventure.
On the road, we encounter strange people doing strange things. And
in strange lands. We can only ask, will the heroes reach their
The most recent addition to the on-the-road genre is Tomi Streiff’s
light-hearted romantic comedy, "The Wedding Cow." Winner of
this year’s Best Feature Film Award at the New Jersey International
Film Festival, it will be screened (on a double bill with the
Brazilian documentary "Strong Roots") Friday through Sunday,
July 20 through 22, at 7 p.m., at Scott Hall 123 at the Rutgers
College Avenue Campus.
Despite a light-hearted exterior, "The Wedding Cow" is a film
that packs a wallop by stuffing layers of heart-felt emotion into
a simple but quirky story, all brought to life by a very charismatic
Streiff, a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, has been
"The Wedding Cow" at film festivals all across the U.S. and
Europe in hopes of garnering a distribution deal. Performed in German
(screened here with English subtitles), the film has won good reviews
and plenty of awards.
Set in present-day Germany, "The Wedding Cow" tells the story
of Flora (Isabella Parkinson), an offbeat young woman who is heading
off on a long journey to Appenweier to become a librarian. Seemingly
naive to the ways of the world, she allows a smooth-talking young
man to steal all her money before she is even manages to buy her train
Forced to hitchhike for the first time in her life, Flora is given
a ride by a big, good-hearted plumber named Tim (Oliver Reinhard)
who is driving his pink truck across country to the Black Forest to
get married. In the back of the truck is a cow named Hannah, a wedding
gift from Tim’s aunt.
Trying her best to be helpful, Flora manages to botch things up enough
to put Tim’s scheduled arrival at the altar into serious question.
Soon Tim and Flora find themselves on a journey full of surprises,
strange events, and — quite to their surprise — they begin
to feel the awkward stirrings of love.
"The Wedding Cow" is an entertaining film, and the chief
is Isabella Parkinson, as Flora, who injects a bucketful of energy
into every screen moment. Director Tomi Streiff is savvy enough not
to get in the way of his own film, and allows the camera to fixate
on her. (Flora is on camera almost all the time). Armed with the power
of contradiction, Parkinson has a kind of Chaplinesque, ragamuffin,
screen presence that is comic, heart-rending, and subtly evocative
of complex human emotions — all at the same time. Not an easy
thing for any actor to pull off.
As the film unfolds, the complexities Parkinson brings to her
proceed to pile up. Watching Flora dissolve into tears (as she does
more than once), is she expressing real sadness or faking it to gain
a psychological edge? One simply can’t be sure. Is she innocent or
manipulative? Kind or cruel? Smart or dumb? We are never explicitly
told, and it doesn’t matter. Parkinson’s performance allows us to
like her anyway. And when Tim begins to like her, we like him, too.
On another level, Parkinson evinces a subtle undercurrent of eroticism
that keeps Tim’s character, as well as the audience, on their toes.
In fact, it is nearly impossible to determine just how old Flora is
supposed to be — she could be anywhere between age 16 and 26.
Dressed like a schoolgirl, in ankle socks and a plain cotton print
dress buttoned to the throat, Flora seems at first all innocent and
bubbly. But when she lifts her skirt to kick at a rusted water spigot,
the effect hints at an eroticism that the audience is only dimly
for. Such are the subtleties that later in the film, when she plants
a big wet kiss on Tim’s mouth, the effect still comes as a surprise.
Flora’s ping-ponging between cutey-pie girlishness and being a woman
looking to be loved gives the film a resonance that goes beyond the
trappings of a standard romantic comedy, and is one of the reasons
why "The Wedding Cow" is such an interesting film to watch.
Parkinson’s acting finesse contributes in a big way.
Filmmaker Streiff also has the filmmaking smarts to avoid the cheap
laugh and sentimental gut-wrench so often found in standard Hollywood
romantic comedies. He keeps things just quirky enough to be
without resorting to Coen Brothers-type cynicism. Streiff packs his
film with small human moments and trusts his audience to catch the
nuances. A rare but welcome trait in a filmmaker.
Of course, it’s not all roses. Streiff’s ubiquitous cow motif does
get a bit heavy-handed, and the rock-and-roll score that seems to
pop up at the oddest moments is downright annoying.
But with its evocation of love "on the road," set in front
of a backdrop of gas stations, rural landscapes, motels, and roadside
restaurants, "The Wedding Cow" has the feel of another fine
"road" picture — Wim Wender’s "Paris, Texas"
a very different perspective). Poetic, without being pretentious,
life-affirming without sentimentality, both films depict characters
struggling to reach out for a little love in a cynical and dangerous
— Jack Florek
Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue Campus (near the corner of
Avenue and Hamilton Street), 732-932-8482. $5. Website:
On a double bill with "Strong Roots."
July 20 to 22, 7 p.m.
a construction worker’s aversion to animals. With three short films
by New Jersey media artists and/or winners of the NJ Film Fest
"Stop the Violence" by April Allridge; "The Melody
by Robert Bertrand; and "Mighty Mutts" by Anne Paas; Friday
and Saturday, July 27 and 28.
Festival, 110 Kingston Lane, Monmouth Junction, 732-329-4000, ext.
286. Screenings are Thursdays at 7 p.m.; free, but space is limited.
Dragon, the 2001 Oscar winning film by Ang Lee, in Mandarin; July
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