Gotta have soul – The Sapphires

The Sapphires - Official Poster - from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires – Official Poster – from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires (2012)

Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy

There is always a little part of me that tends to cringe at Aussie humour. It’s something about it being a little bit corny and overdone that I find groan-worthy. It is something that I’ve been discovering has been shaken out of Australian films little bit by little bit over the years and it has now hit the right tone in most Australian films that I’ve seen over the last couple of years. I think it’s also a better quality of all aspects of film making as well which has begun to give Aussie films a real chance of succeeding in other countries as well as at home. The Sapphires is a perfect example of the quality films that Australia is producing.

Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows the story of a group of Australian indigenous women with talented voices and a passion to use them. It is set during the Vietnam war, which is not a time period I know much about, apart from the funky music and cute fashion, oh and Forrest Gump. The story between the women is heartbreaking and endearing all at the same time. It shows the intricate difficulties of racism in Australia in the 50s and 60s and how it affected all people involved, not just Aboriginals nor just white people. I found that this point was handled incredibly well. It balanced the sensitivity with the truth and harshness of racism and made the world of Australia in the 1960s really come alive with a unique view from the point of view of indigenous Australians.

The highlight of the film for me had to be the relationship between Deborah Mailman’s character of Gale and Chris O’Dowd’s beautiful and hilarious portrayal of Dave. The arc of their story has a unique and wonderful twist to it and to watch it unravel on screen is simply delightful. You really feel for all the women in this film, from the women in the Sapphires to their mum, aunt, cousin, etc, there is a grace and sharpness to the shape of the relationships between the women. It is this that gripped me through the film, I was pulled in through the comedy and emotional take on the women and the battles they faced in their lives. The strength of these women is showcased in a variety of ways and it was fantastic to see strength in women displayed in these ways as it really illuminated the different ways femininity can be expressed.

Chris O’Dowd provided a wonderful lightness and humour to the film and really bound the film to an international grounding, as well as the link with the Americans in Vietnam. I really do hope this film is accepted by an international audience.

The only complaint I have about this film is the one or two times when that old Aussie cringe-worthy humour and corniness came through the cracks, but I was able to overlook this because of the strength of the rest of the film. Go and see it if you get the chance. It’s made me fall in love with Soul music all over again.

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The Beauty of the Inner City Life – Not Suitable For Children

Not Suitable For Children (2012)

Director: Peter Templeman
Writers: Michael Lucas (story), Peter Templeman (story), and Michael Lucas (screenplay)
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Bojana Novakovic and Laura Brent

I’m not usually a watcher of Australian films because I cringe at either the over-done humour or overwhelming drama. I saw Not Suitable For Children as an audience testing session when it was just about to be released and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and the reception of others in the audience. For one thing it is a film set in a place I know well and a culture that I am partial to. The film traces the story of three friends who live in the inner city suburb of Newtown in Sydney, Australia. The main character, Jonah (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood, Griff The Invisible), is presented with the end of his ability to procreate and decides he will go to any ends to secure an offspring of his own before his time runs out.

This film is incredibly funny, engaging, and genuine film which balances the unique drama of Australian culture and its humour. This film is the closest thing to a real life in this particular culture that I have seen and it is uncanny how beautiful this creation is. Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook (Stevie), and Ryan Corr (Gus) give incredibly compelling performances that make each of the characters absorbing. The friendship between these three characters is both funny and moving. It provides the grounding for the narrative and the complexity to the characters as they develop and interact with one another. There is an underlying truth and reality to this story which makes this film so wonderfully watchable.

This Australian film is unlike any other film I’ve seen and with good reason. It’s crafted with such delicacy and devotion to tell a story that hasn’t really been told before, and a story which touches on a subject that can both resonate for men and women. It tells the story of one of our base instincts, to reproduce, and the difficulties facing both men and women in our society. The idea of having children and raising them when our culture tells us both that we should and shouldn’t do such a thing, that it both takes away our independent lives and gives us “the greatest gift of life”, is a persuasive foundation for a story. The entire production of Not Suitable For Children has come together to produce a fantastic film that will speak to a lot of people across our country, and hopefully the world. I am really hoping this film does well as it is a genuinely fantastic viewing experience and a story that deserves to be told so wonderfully.

I totally recommend you see this film, even/especially if you don’t usually like Australian films, I would give it a real go because you will end up falling in love with these characters and both laughing and lamenting your way through the journey and grief that they experience together. Top points go to Ryan Corr for being the third wheel in this story as well and his incredible performance as Gus, he is a true champion of the inner city Sydney life and has impeccable comedic timing. Sarah Snook and Ryan Kwanten also provide genuinely wonderful characters and especially Sarah’s transformation through the film is inspired and inspiring. Go and enjoy a wonderful Australian film!

Icky and Delightful – What To Expect When You’re Expecting

What To Expect When You're Expecting - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Official Poster – from IMDB.com

What To Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

Director: Kirk Jones
Writers: Shauna Cross (screenplay), Heather Hach (screenplay), and Heidi Murkoff (books)
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison and J. Todd Smith

Pregnancy is one of those both wonderful and icky topics of life. It is wonderful because it means new life has been created, but icky because when you think about it, it means you’re parents have had sex, probably a lot of it too. And that thought is just well, disturbing for most. But when the movies portray pregnancy as just the simply wonderful then you miss the icky. This film shows the diversity of people’s experiences in pregnancy. It shows the ups and downs of having a baby and the ways you can get pregnant or have a kid. The best thing about this film though is Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, 30 Rock). She is the thing that makes this film work for me. Of course the wonderful different stories intertwining are great and the stories from miscarriage to adoption to twins is delightful but Banks portrayal of a pregnant woman is exactly what I expect myself to be like when/if I have kids, except probably with a little more crazy. She plays the part of a struggling pregnant woman so well and I love it. Yes pregnancy isn’t always a struggle but it’s nice to see someone fall apart and for it to be okay. There are just so many moments when I belly laughed at one liners between Banks’ character Wendy and her shop assistant Janice (Rebel Wilson). There is something honest and real about the crazy world of pregnancy that Wendy lives in that is truly humourous.

The other part of this film that really shone out was the Dad’s group. The slo-mo entrance of the dad’s at the beginning and end made me laugh so much, mainly just because of the kid, Jordan, who was just adorable and slightly bizarre. It made me want to be a dad but it also made sense to me to see these dad’s complain about every little annoyance when they are with the guys because where else can they do that kind of thing but the reality is that they love their kids more than anything and there is a real beauty and honour in that simple fact. Yes dad’s get all the crap thrown at them because the woman pushed the kid out of their body, and yes they probably should take the crap, but they are also very much in their own rights to have a safe space where they can do what the women do when they get together: bitch and whine about how annoying their kids are. Of course this is what I imagine happens when mothers get together but please correct me if I’ve been lead to believe.

The humour, the love, the bellies, and the sweet moments of this film made me really smile at the end. It was a really enjoyable and fun movie to watch. It’s not the greatest film ever made, and it’s not the best romantic comedy out there but it is fun and funny and it’s a great film to see with some friends.

A Love Story Without A Marriage At The End – Brave

Brave - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Brave – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Brave (2012)

Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell
Writers: Mark Andrews (screenplay) and Steve Purcell (screenplay) and Brenda Chapman (screenplay) and Irene Mecchi (screenplay), and Brenda Chapman (story)
Stars: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson

One of my favourite Spice Girls’ song is Mama because it’s not your usual soppy song but it’s about girls gaining understanding about their mums and what they have had to put up with as they have raised us. It speaks of a kind of love which is unique, frustrating, and that triumphs in forgiveness and humility. It is simply beautiful.

Brave is not your typical Disney Princess story. It’s the story of a girl who is faced with a situation which is unpleasant any which way she looks and with a mother who, although trying to do what is best for her daughter, is trying to push her daughter along a path that clashes with everything her daughter feels. It is about women with fierce pride and about their tortured journey to try and communicate and understand each other’s point of view.

Disney has once again created a beautiful tale of strong female characters and a story that reflects our day and age. The idea of independence, of choice, and of the power to be who you are is one that has really been taking shape for a while now but has really come out in our narratives recently. And I love it. It is a wonderfully powerful role model and heroine for young women and allows us to break out and explore the world in our own way. It is about coming to the realisation that our mother’s want the best for us, but that we also need to teach them as much as they teach us. Ultimately it is a love story between mother and daughter.

I loved this film because it was typical Disney with it’s great comic timing in animation and its brilliant narrative of adventure, discovery, forgiveness, and triumph. The biggest surprise in this film is that there isn’t really an “evil” that the protagonist is fighting against. There is a witch but she isn’t necessarily evil, and there is a mad bear but he’s just sick with power and loneliness. There is no evil villain but there is the battle of pride which Merida and her mother have to come through. It is this aspect that makes the film different from other Disney princess films and appealing to me as a viewer. I didn’t have high expectations for Brave because I was afraid it was going to be underwhelming like Princess and the Frog was. But Brave really blew me away as it was a beautiful animation and narrative that made me laugh and sigh and come out of feeling uplifted. And that’s what Disney films are meant to do right? They are meant to make you dream and make you feel like anything is possible in the world. Merida is a wonderfully strong heroine and I loved this film so much it may end up bumping Tangled down into third place in my top Disney films list. Beauty and The Beast will always be my favourite but Brave is about a restored mother/daughter relationship and that is a wonderful breath of fresh air in Disney films as it makes up for all those evil step-mothers and their mistreatment of their children. Now we have a magnificent mother character in Disney.