Friday, January 4, 2008

Australian Rules (2002)

In a small town in Australia, a teenage boy (Nathan Phillips) becomes the inadvertent hero of his local Australian Rules football team in the Grand Final, but that same night loses his best aboriginal friend (Luke Carroll) in a robbery-related shooting. He has to deal with his grief, his mean-spirited, violent father (Simon Westaway), and the prejudice of his team-mates and townspeople when he starts to fall in love with an aboriginal girl (Lisa Flanagan). It’s difficult for me to judge this movie on its own, as it is loosely based on the wonderful first novel Deadly, Unna? by Phillip Gwynne. Gwynne’s book is geared to a teen audience (although it is a great read for adults as well), and is peppered with wonderful prose, laugh-out-loud humor, and subtle ambiguity. Back to the film: the actors are excellent, but the screenplay (which Gwynne, inexplicably, co-wrote) is inferior to the book in every way. Virtually every change to the plot, mood, and characters (and there are literally dozens of changes) weaken the story or change the point. If you haven’t read the book, do so. If you have, stay away – far away - from this filmed version. Rating: 1 of 4 reviewed 4 Jan 2008

"…increasingly conventional, predictable and schematic as it heads down depressingly dark melodramatic avenues in the second half."
- Neil Young’s Film Lounge

"What we're left with however is a somewhat clumsy, uneven film, where overwrought scenes are interspersed with more intimate and realistic ones with better pacing and timing. In a sense, things are almost too black and white in Australian Rules; it's a film crying out for grey areas, the spaces in film where art is made and risks are taken."
- TripleJ Film Reviews

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