Opa!

By Michael T. Dennis
 
Worlds collide in “Opa!' when an archeologist comes to a remote Greek island where his modern science is at odds with the traditional lifestyle enjoyed by the locals. The past is set against the present, technology against nature, and the mind against the heart. Unfortunately “Opa!” never moves beyond this list of clichés and while moderately pleasant, it's eminently forgettable.
 
“Opa!' starts out with a picture-perfect scene, sun-drenched images of a scenic Grecian landscape, and a woman and her daughter ride a bicycle down a winding road. Trouble begins with the arrival of Eric (Matthew Modine), a well-intentioned American archeologist who brings with him a suitcase full of high-tech gadgets. The gear is to be used in the pursuit of an artifact that Eric's father spent a lifetime digging for. At first, Eric is preoccupied with the search, blind to the beauty around him, until it forces itself into his life in the form of Katerina (Agni Scott), a local legend and the object of men's desires.
 
But even then there is fundamental difference between Eric's brand of hard science and the Dionysian embrace of life the residents of this tourist haven ascribe to. Dance and drink are far more important than any new discoveries, no matter how much they might be worth in scientific grant money.
 
When Eric discovers evidence of a promising dig site, it happens to be situated directly below the restaurant owned by Katerina. Eric is slow to reveal this little detail, causing a rift in the burgeoning romance that has only just begun to bring him out from behind a computer terminal and into the real world. The rest of “Opa!” follows Eric's conflict of interest, as he must decide between pursuing the science that has always guided him or new life of spontaneous affections.
 
“Opa!” was an official selection at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, and now, four years later, it's  released in limited mode with all of its shortcomings. The biggest of these is the one-dimensional characters that do little to arouse sympathy or scorn. Eric is easy to peg: a nice guy whose ambitions get the better of him as he follows in his father's footsteps.
 
While this makes him not much of a protagonist, an even worse fate befalls the character of Katerina. An orphan and widow, she is still somehow perpetually happy without the dark side that would be suggested by such a trying past and would make the character infinitely more interesting. The only thing that can threaten her sunny disposition is Eric's refusal to commit to a new way of looking at the world. After rebuffing the advances of countless men, Katerina is instantly invested in Eric for no other reason than because it's convenient to the story.
 
“Opa!” is populated with caricatures, from the hot tempered Greek macho man to the antique, old-school British archeologist who knew Eric's father and acts as a guide and conscience. To meet any of these characters is to know everything about them. Only a trio of old women, who comment on the situation at hand like a chorus, bring any kind of surprise to the proceedings.
 
Predictable characters inevitably make for a predictable plot. “Opa!” sets up its conflict in the first few minutes so all that remains is for the details to be filled in. When they are, they offer nothing that is especially enlightening or thought-provoking; it's just the fulfillment of our low expectations.
 
“Opa!” features smooth production design, and the location photography is nice to look at. But on a story level “Opa!” is a very plain romantic comedy that might not even appeal to the genre's most devoted fans. The romance between Eric and Katerina is charming and there is fun to be had in watching Matthew Modine chart a course from full blown archeological nerdhood to something that resembles normalcy. His sincerity is palpable and his everyday version of Eric works better than what might have been done if a more typical, more handsome leading man were cast instead.
 
As Katerina, Agni Scott brings radiance to a character who does nothing but radiate (and occasionally mope), leaving us to wonder what sort of performance she could have turned in with just a trace amount of nuance written into her role.
 
“Opa!” ends up being nothing like the celebratory exclamation its title implies. British director Udayan Prasad seems unwilling to move beyond his television roots to craft a more complex work. In its best moments, “Opa!” resembles a formulaic, easily digestible romantic comedy that offers a few laughs and a happy ending. The rest of the time it's a bland piece of popular fare that adds to an already cluttered genre.
 
Cast
 
Eric – Matthew Modine
Tierrney – Richard Griffiths
Katerina – Agni Scott
piros Kakohiannis – Alki David
 
Credits
 
Cinema 7
Distributed by Cinedigm
Directed by Udayan Prasad
Written by Christina Concetta and Raman Singh
Producers, Jeffrey Bloom, Pasquale Botta, Thierry Cagianut, James Deyarmin, Elliott Kastner, Theodore Kateris, George Pappas, and Stacey Tabor
Original Music, Stephen Warbeck
Cinematographer, Haris Zambarloukos
Editor, Barrie Vince
Production Designer, Dimitris Ziakas
Art Director, Christina Vlachou