FILM REVIEW: THE FACE OF BIRTH

At the heart of the Face Of Birth documentary is a question. That is – do women have a right to choose where and how they will give birth? It is a hot button issue, yet one where other developed nations have deemed that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

This Australian documentary plays like a labour of love by directors Kate Gorman and Gavin Banks. It reveals how the Australian Government pushed through reforms in September 2009 making homebirths illegal. After lobbying and protests a temporary reprieve was granted but this is due to expire in 2013.

The film strives to explore women’s options for giving birth in Australia. But in light of the current circumstances the emphasis is on homebirth as an alternative for low-risk women and babies. The talking head interviews include: anthropologists, birth educators, midwives, academics, presidents of obstetric groups, lobbyists and women who have successfully delivered via homebirth.

There is some discussion from mothers who had hospital births but with the exception of political journalist, Emma Macdonald  – who speaks favourably about her two caesarians – the mainstream, medical system is generally spoken about in an unfavourable light. At times you may be left thinking that it would have been helpful to hear the counterarguments from those championing the current system but the filmmakers may have adopted this narrower approach because of the more implicit societal acceptance for the current state of things.

Midwifery scholar, Hannah Dahlen offers some particularly enlightening arguments and information. She forces us to question that child and mother mortality rates are not the only important statistic and measure of good practice. As it currently stands, Australian women are having double the prescribed level of caesarians by the World Health Organisation. There are also statistics showing a higher incidence of mental illnesses like post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among new mothers, with a number of particularly distressed ones turning to suicide as a means to combat their feelings of helplessness.

Another difficult segment to watch in this documentary is about the plight of our indigenous women. Their view on birthing is that it is sacred and should be done “on country” among their people. Yet the Northern Territory Government has ruled that at 36 weeks a mother should be flown unaccompanied from her home in the outback to the city. There she is put in a hostel for a month and will return shortly after giving birth. Yet, Lena Pula a traditional midwife reveals that despite decades of delivery experience, she has never had a breach birth.

But the film isn’t all about sadness. Actress Noni Hazlehurst had two homebirths and is an articulate and warm interviewee. She leads a raft of mothers telling powerful and beautiful homebirth stories or ones that are a million miles away from the horror stories you typically hear secondhand from family and friends. The underlying message from these mothers seems to be to open people’s minds to the options; that it isn’t just a bunch of hippies with incense and to remind women that birth is a natural process that has been performed for thousands of years.

The World Health Organisation recommends that birth should take place where a woman feels safe, where appropriate care is feasible and secure and where she can be close to her people. In other Western countries like the UK and New Zealand their approach is a more progressive one with independent, publicly funded midwives and homebirths available as well as birthing centres and hospitals. But Australia has some way to come on this issue because the personal has gotten political and everyone has an opinion.

The Face Of Birth is not perfect but it is an informative documentary that will get people talking about this important issue. At times it poses more questions then answers but the prevailing message for everyone should be that there will be advantages and disadvantages or risks associated with any birth, because while it is a miracle it can be an unpredictable one. It also seems that the answer is not going to be found in a specific instruction but in women being informed and supported so that they can make their own educated choice, because birth ultimately has impacts that extend beyond the delivery room.

Originally published on 31 August 2012 at the following website: http://lipmag.com/arts/film-arts/film-review-the-face-of-birth/

Visit Lip Magazine’s homepage at: http://lipmag.com

ALBUM REVIEW: DAPPLED CITIES – LAKE AIR

Three years on from third album Zounds and it seems like the darkness has shifted and Dappled Cities have turned the lights on full-blast. The output sounds fun and effortless even though they’ve admitted the process was a long and often difficult one. Here they extend some of the ideas previously tackled on Zounds, but the mood is certainly more euphoric.

First single “Run With The Wind” opens the album with a defiant cry, “We walk!”, supported by carnival fanfare, soaring harmonies and a strong pop hook. The record’s lyrics include ruminations on death, life and family and the writing seems to have renewed the carefree spirit found by looking back at their individual childhoods.

There is the honest simplicity in “Real Love”, which boasts a celestial groove; the title track could hold its own among any of the big, ’70s numbers it references (Bowie, Queen, Wings, et al); while Dappled show their interest in the here and now on “Born At The Right Time”, which ruminates on being privileged in 2012. Lake Air concludes with melancholic piano ballad “Waves”, and “The Weekend”, which ends things on a light, Vampire Weekend-inspired note.

Dappled Cities have somehow managed to squeeze all of the best aspects of their band – from their art-rock beginnings to the synth-fuelled material on Zounds – into a tight record, running at just over 40 minutes.

Originally published on 28 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/33540/Dappled-Cities–Lake-Air

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: SPLIT SECONDS – YOU’LL TURN INTO ME

Perth-via-Melbourne band, Split Seconds’ star has continued to shine bright since they picked up five WAMI awards. They’ve toured this great land with a number of excellent acts and released an impressive debut EP. But perhaps their biggest claim to fame is that Richard Kingsmill dubbed them his “New favourite Perth band”. Naturally, the expectations surrounding their debut album, You’ll Turn Into Me were high; but these boys thankfully deliver with the goods.

Split Seconds actually began as a solo project by Sean Pollard who was originally living in London and feeling rather homesick. He soon discovered the perfect tonic in Australian albums and listening back to a lot of them. This would help shape their eponymous debut EP. And whether by osmosis or grand design it seems like the group have managed to forge their own mature and accomplished sound of timeless sounding pop-rock by paying homage to an influence or two.

“Security Light” features lots of chiming guitars and is a jaunty little pop-rock song. It’s an idea that is reprised and refashioned across the ten tracks to make it cohesive but far from old. “All You Gotta Do” is about much lighter moments insofar as it’s a commanding invitation to party, kinda like the Kaiser Chiefs but with more atmospheric guitars.

The timeless Australian sound that seems to be instilled into us all at birth is prevalent on another little baby called “Maiden Name”. On repeat listens it offers up other fresh sonic aspects so that after one spin I could hear a broodier version of INXS, but then I decided that the guitars and the effects were much similar to those by The Edge. Then I thought the beat was reminiscent of Oh Mercy circa Great Barrier Grief but then the crisp, golden production gave way to the sounds of some older, Australian classics coupled with a more contemporary slant. Either way, the song sounds great and is the kind of thing you could imagine featuring at a pivotal moment in a film.

Things get rather raunchy on the single that is simply known as “Top Floor”. This one’s about a couple that got amorous on a double-decker bus in London (the mile-not-so-high club, perhaps?) Needless to say this sounds like one helluva joyride complete with pop sounds, melody and whistles (but not catcalls, although given the circumstances these would have been rather apt!)

There is some lush orchestration to be found on “Oliver” while “She Makes Her Own Clothes” sees the kind of guitars that shine like a sunny, cloudless day in Perth. The latter also includes some multipart harmonising like those by Boy & Bear and this carries us through into “Some Of Us”. The record then draws to a close with the piano rock of the title track where a sage, old father figure offers some pearls of wisdom to his youngster.

Split Seconds apply a deft touch to their songwriting, whether they’re producing romper-stompers full of rock swagger or more gentler and softer moments. The music is literate, accessible and soars as high as their individual stars-on-the-rise. It’s the kind of observational look at suburban life we hear from our parents and is typically resigned to balmy evenings sitting on the back porch.

Split Seconds may not be pushing major boundaries per se but their music is rooted in tradition. They give us a clever snapshot of contemporary life and use their influences like: Paul Kelly, The Triffids and Crowded House as some perfect reference points in joining the dots together between the young and old. In short, You’ll Turn Into Me is a solid Australian songbook from some talented members of our current crop.

 

Originally published on 27 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/albums/split-seconds-youll-turn-into-me-2012-lp

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

ARTS REVIEW: OLD PARIS PHOTOGRAPHS BY EUGÈNE ATGET @ ART GALLERY OF NSW

Eugène Atget’s photographs are largely devoid of people. Instead the “Founder of documentary photography” captured where they lived, worked, shopped and played. Even landmarks and high-activity places like the market and circus are shown with little or no humans, lending these pictures a haunting and eerie quality akin to a crime scene.

Old Paris is the first in-depth exhibition of Atget’s works in Australia. It combines 200 rare and original prints loaned from the Museum of History in Paris and American artist, Man Ray’s personal collection (now owned by the International Museum of Photography and Film in New York). His works inspired many people, from the surrealists to Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott, and nowadays these are rarely allowed to travel.

Atget was a grand master of photography who had no formal training. He was fuelled by a natural curiosity and an intense imagination that lead him to take some 30000 photographs in his lifetime. As a young man he dabbled in acting and served in the military, but it is estimated that in 1888 he began to pursue photography full-time.

He enjoyed documenting the “disappearing” Paris, the one that had been largely unaffected by the demolition and modernisation that was occurring at the time. He paid particular attention to the things that had been earmarked for destruction, making final portraits of old quarters in Paris such as: shop-fronts, courtyards, gardens, townhouses, interiors and bridges along the Seine.

The camera was typically set up by Atget on the sidewalk and at eye-level so as to offer the pedestrians’ perspective. This means that the gallery patrons are led to feel as though they are walking along those same streets in “Old” Paris. The other set of exhibited prints is about documenting the hidden gems i.e. the treasure trove of ornaments, relics and other minor aspects of facades, which would have otherwise been walked past and forgotten.

In 1920 Atget felt he had finally finished the enormous task of gathering together and documenting the entire city. He achieved this with his large camera swathed in the dark, heavy cloth synonymous with the equipment from that period. There were a couple of occasions where he turned up fragmented and reflected in his pictures, a treat because there are few surviving portraits of the artist himself.

Atget developed his own photographs. He used a technique where light-sensitive paper was placed into contact with the glass negatives he’d used. These were never developed or enlarged; instead he used natural light to create the level of density he wanted. He would then wash these multiple times to get the desired tones in deep sepia and violet brown, not black and white. He’d often assemble albums of around 50-60 photos (some of these are exhibited here) and he’d sell some works to artists and history enthusiasts plus libraries, archives and museums.

The pictures by Atget are often as much about what’s left in as what’s been excluded. Events like markets and the circus are implied; shadows hint at the earlier scene and people (like the owner’s of the lived-in houses and interiors he shot are absent from their abodes). Sometimes the pictures are blurred as there were long exposure times but this helps to add shadows and depth, and emphasises certain elements above others.

Ultimately, Atget’s work sees the perfect collusion between mystery, history and poetry. Old Paris is a rich and nostalgic collection of diverse and humble works. In short, an inspiring love letter to the much-lauded sentimental city of love.

Old Paris is being exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW until 4 November 2012. For more information about this exhibition please visit: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/eugene-atget/

 

Originally published on 26 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/arts-review-old-paris-photographs-by-eugene-atget

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

LIVE REVIEW: SOMETHING FOR KATE @ ANNANDALE HOTEL (20.08.2012)

The Annandale was where Something For Kate performed their first Sydney show in the nineties. Over the years they’d play there again under various names and guises. So there really was no other choice of place for the single launch. And despite being held on a Monday night, it played host to a large, sell-out crowd of adoring fans with enormous cheers that greeted music that was bigger and better than ever.

At the work-friendly time of 9PM the group kicked off with “3 Dimensions”. Like a good wine this song has matured well with age. The re-creation tonight soared as this slice of nostalgic introspection was bathed in golden light. From early on the group were in fine form with Paul Dempsey playing the affable fella hitting the high notes just like a choirboy but with guitar playing to rival a God. Meanwhile, Stephanie Ashworth maintained her cool sway and thudding bass and Clint Hyndman was the hard-hitting timekeeper.

Dempsey exclaimed that it didn’t “feel” like a Monday night before the band launched into the new cut, “Eureka”. Musically this didn’t seem too far removed from the group’s canon but it did boast a rather interesting and plodding beat. This was followed by the broody, “Jerry Sand Up”, which made us all float away to a sultry, film noir-like soundtrack.

“Monsters” was a sing-along that was every bit as beautiful as that hit from Echolalia. A member of the audience was so captivated by the moment that he called out afterwards, “I love you Paul”. It was a sentiment shared by the room as Dempsey replied, “That’s lovely, thank you” and Steph grinned like the proud partner she is. Then a gruff bloke added, “I love you Clint” prompting Dempsey to wait for the next person to say, “I love you Steph”. It seemed as though the crowd shared some good old fashion manners and a desire to display mutual love and appreciation for such a talented group of musicians.

There was the slower-paced, almost lounge creep of “Down The Garden Path” before things were taken up a notch with the real purpose of the evening, the new chiming single, “Survival Expert”. Dempsey would dedicate this one to the Annandale’s owners, Matt and Dan Rule after saying how chuffed he is to see the venue still there, well over a decade after they first performed at the joint.

Another new song was offered, this time with a Jack Johnson-like, sun-kissed vibe and then the pulsing, “The Fireball At The End Of Everything”. This did prove to be a rather new experience for the older fans that weren’t so used to hearing such cheery, new music and shiny pop numbers with additional flourishes- but these did go down a treat. “Miracle Cure” was another new highlight with big keys; a rocking clip-clop beat and it was full of the kind of peppy bounce typically synonymous with a teenager.

The old favourites like “The Anchorman” and “Whatever You Want” were met with the kind of reverence and adoration that they rightly deserve. But despite this, the real highlight of the evening was actually a cover, after Dempsey was left alone with just an acoustic guitar. He would tackle a song he “Couldn’t get enough of at five years old”. That was Sam Brown’s “Stop” or the one that goes: “You better stop before you tear me apart”. It was raw and emotional, boasting the kind of pearls you typically find in the band’s originals.

The main set concluded with “Déjà vu” where Pip Branson joined the group to play a great violin solo. It also had some additional layers and was good fun, much like “Pinstripe”. The guys came back for an encore and closed with the highly charged “Electricity” which almost seemed like a war cry.

Something For Kate’s show had been a welcome return to the live circuit after their break. Paul Dempsey thanked us all for helping make the night sell out so quickly (and on a Monday to boot). At times it felt like he, Ashworth and Hyndman had never been away at all. Their set of old and new material was one tight and well-oiled machine. The new stuff sounds especially rousing with far more care and attention to detail having been paid in order to create additional sonics and many more textures to punctuate the overall sound. So let us all wait with bated breath for their next run of live shows in October. Can’t wait!

Originally published on 22 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/something-for-kate-annandale-hotel-20-08-12

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

EP REVIEW: SET SAIL – HEY!

If you live in Sydney then chances are you’ve already seen Set Sail. The trio started off small, initially by busking in Pitt Street Mall. The plan was to make some money and fund an overseas trip. But things then snowballed so much that they achieved that goal by busking through Europe and then they scored a spot at the recent ARIA Awards.

But it wasn’t all a bed of roses. There was some internet backlash (something that comes with the territory of being successful in a land where we cut down tall poppies). Then their singer got deported back to his native, US. But the guys have overcome all this and are back with their heads held high thanks to their shiny new EP, Hey! It’s also the follow-up to their The Riley Moore debut or the one that had been hand-burned and stamped- talk about DIY!

This time around, violinist, Josiah Willows has said that the guys wanted to make a solid, musical statement after they whittled down four killer songs from the original 15. A self-confessed lover of big melodies, strong chords and large hooks, it is easy to see these elements punctuating the tracks. In many ways Set Sail are like fellow Sydneysiders, Dappled Cities, in that their latest release contains its fair share of “single-sounding” cuts thanks to the overall, infectious pop grooves.

“Charleston” begins with a quirky yet sunny statement straight from a sandy beach. Musically it seems nestled between the kind of upbeat pop of The Drums and Born Ruffians. Heck, it’s a feel-good hit for the summer destined to get some retro-embracing kids dancing a twist just like their mamas and papas did a few decades back.

The sugary vibe is continued into “Who Are You” where chiming riffs are flavoured with an almost Disco-like strut and some of the rainbow swirls from an old, Disney cartoon. The closest other thing I’ve heard to it is Yves Klein Blue’s exuberant and sorely missed, indie pop. It’s a vibe that also sees us soar away into “Kids” while the title track reprises those chiming guitars from earlier. But this time the song is packaged as a carefree call-to-arms that sounds like what you’d get if you took Coldplay’s epic harmonies from “Paradise” and mixed them with The Living End’s grunt and The Edge’s effects.

Set Sail’s Hey! EP is all about smiling faces, flailing limbs and dancing in the sunshine. While it is nothing new, it is a formula that has worked wonders for many good bands in history. Plus, when it induces such raucous fun you are left to wonder if there really is anything left to complain about, both here and in life in general.

 

Originally published on 19 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/albums/set-sail-hey-2012-ep

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

FILM REVIEW: BULLY

The best documentaries are the ones that resonate and prove to be the most thought-provoking. Lee Hirsch’s film, Bully manages to tick both of these boxes. It is ultimately a fly-on-the-wall account filled with the testimonies of victims of bullying, something that is proving to be an insidious problem.

The documentary follows Alex, a sweet but gangly and awkward 12-year old. Dubbed “Fish face”, he is taunted daily by his peers and some nasty, older kids. It has reached the point where he is a combination of feeling numb; wanting to give in and become a bully himself; or considers them “mates” because he wouldn’t have any friends without them. It’s heart wrenching stuff to watch his parents who are oblivious to their child’s plight and how he is let down by a school system that is supposed to educate, not humiliate.

Alex is not alone. Kelby is 16 and was the star, basketball player in a small town of sanctimonious, religious folk. After she comes out as a lesbian she becomes a social pariah. Another victim is Ja’Maya, a bright, 14 year old who gets so fed up with her aggressors that she steals her mother’s loaded gun and brandishes it on the school bus. She had simply wanted to scare the antagonists, but winds up in juvenile detention.

The film’s director, Lee Hirsch knows first-hand what it is like to be bullied. He too suffered, just like these vulnerable children. Perhaps because of this, he adopts a more emotive point-of-view in the presentation. Instead of depicting just concrete facts and figures, he gets straight to the heart of the problem by showing the three victims’ daily lives.

The other part of this story details two families who are having to live without their two young sons because they killed themselves when the torment became too much. This part is particularly gut-wrenching as we see the families of Ty Smalley (aged 11) and Tyler Long (aged 17) deal with the grief and loss of these two beautiful lives cut so needlessly short. The families are admirable in that they have now taken up the anti-bullying cause by campaigning and general activism, including holding vigils in memory of their sons and other victims.

Bully makes for emotional viewing that will cause you to be equally mad and wish that you could do something. But despite this, the film is not a perfect rendering of the issue. The interview subjects are from a narrow sample as all five families live in the American mid-west (Oklahoma, Georgia and Iowa). As such, it feels like the story is a tad incomplete because this is a cruel matter happening all around the world. There is also a lack of discussion with experts and even the bullies themselves. But although it fails at being comprehensive, it is at least some important filmmaking that tugs at your heartstrings.

Bully is emotionally stirring and an absolutely heartbreaking view of a global epidemic and one that looks set to rise with the increase in cyberbullying. It is personal and observational, a sobering account of the situation where the underlying messages of the need for open dialogue and action overrule the minor flaws in the presentation. Ultimately, Bully is an intimate and distressing mirror to our society and its faults.

Review score: 4 stars

Originally published on 13 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/bully-m-2012

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

FILM REVIEW: WAR WITCH

War Witch (Rebelle) may not be a true story but it certainly feels real. Director, Kim Nguyen has previously produced fantasy films although this one is anything but. War Witch instead deals with the gritty story of a girl solider living in an unspecified location in Africa where complex things like the loss of innocence, post-traumatic stress, genocide, poverty and war-torn towns are the norm.

The film is set-up so that Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is recounting her life story to her as-yet-unborn child. It starts with her abduction at age 12 where she is forced to shoot her parents (her AK-47 is her new family) and fight for the Great Tiger’s group of rebels. “The government’s” soldiers are the enemy and just like the fictional war story, Tomorrow When The War Began the finer points regarding the identity of these foes is kept vague. But this doesn’t detract from the gruesome details and the tragedy of watching a child become indoctrinated.

By 13 she is anointed as the leader’s personal war witch because Komona can see visions that assist her in warding off danger. Along the way she falls in love with another child solider, an albino boy who she affectionately calls Magicien (Serge Kanyinda) because of his powers with sorcery. They dream of having a domestic life together and escape the “evil” clutches only to have further tragedy strike.

The film was shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the cast is largely made up of non-professional actors. Yet they all do a stellar job in relaying the shocking tale. Of particular note is the film’s star, Rachel Mwanza who won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 2012 Berlinale for her mature and understated performance.

War Witch is a harsh story where relentless fighting and combat are combined with brave storytelling to open your eyes to this resilient young woman who is representative of the many lives lost by youths living in similar, trying conditions. It is a gruelling portrait that is told in a dark, frank and graphic manner. And while this fails to charter any new territory in a storytelling sense, it is still an intense drama and a pillar of strength amongst the scenes of bloody carnage.

Review score: 3 stars

Originally published on 13 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/film-review-canadian-film-festival-sydney-2012-war-witch-rebelle-ctc

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

FILM REVIEW: CLOUDBURST

When a director proudly claims his film is the first ever “Geriatric lesbian road trip movie” you know you’re dealing with a very specific niche genre. Yet Cloudburst’s tale of two golden girls on the run and on the road is actually a rather tender offering. Full of heart, it’s bound to have a far more universal appeal, because with these two feisty grannies on a Thelma & Louise-style juggernaut, you’ll soon find that you’ll have to strap yourself in, in order to keep up.

The story actually comes courtesy of director, Thom Fitzgerald who doubled as the original playwright and who penned the silver screen’s adaptation. He apparently wrote the part with Academy Award winner, Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) in mind; and it shows. This film would falter without her show-stopping performance as the acerbic and stubborn bull dyke, Stella. Typically clad in a flannelette shirt and cowboy hat, she is renowned for having a dirty mouth or one that would give The Thick Of It’s Malcolm Tucker a right serve.

Stella’s love interest is Dot (fellow Oscar winner, Brenda Fricker), a sweet and blind lady who doubles as the perfect sparring partner to her butch lover. The couple have been together for over three decades, although this fact has eluded Dot’s granddaughter, Molly, (Kristin Booth) who considers the two “Just good friends”.

After Dot has an accident at home, Molly pounces and tricks her Nan into signing over a power of attorney. Molly plans to lock the senior away in an old folks’ home but Stella puts in a good fight to maintain their comfortable and happy life. She goes undercover and busts Dot out and they decide that the only solution is to get married, in Canada (where it’s good and legal).

In a red, beat-up truck they travel via the picturesque landscapes from their native Maine through to Canada. Along the way they pick up a young and gorgeous male hitchhiker (Ryan Doucette) who plans to return to his childhood home to see his dying mother. The unlikely trio get involved in a number of different hijinks and hilarity occasionally ensues. Some of the moments are funnier than others and the ones that do fall short tend to be more of the slapstick variety of comedy.

Cloudburst succeeds as a film because it ultimately tackles a hot-button issue but depicts it with such grace that you’re left feeling terrific as the old-fashioned values of love and devotion shine through. It is a distinctive and unconventional film but also manages to retain a great deal of warmth, engaging viewers with its twists and turns, some oddball characters and some madcap fun. In short, Cloudburst is a joyous adventure where you’re guaranteed to have a gay, old time.

Review score: 4 stars

Originally published on 13 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/canadian-film-festival-sydney-2012-cloudburst-ctc

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

FILM REVIEW: GOON

At first glance Goon may as well be starring Homer Simpson. Seann William Scott (American Pie) stars as Doug “The Thug” Glatt, a big bear and dim-witted oaf. A black sheep in the family, he had been resigned to working menial jobs (usually ones that had uniforms labeled with the word, “Security”). But then he discovers ice hockey and outside of the game he proves to be a big teddy bear with a heart of gold.

Goon is loosely based on the life of Doug “The Hammer” Smith, an “enforcer” from minor league hockey. These players are more commonly known by the name of “goon” as their role typically involves blocking opponents by any means necessary. At times this includes engaging in punching matches with other aggressive players.

Glatt lands this role after he jumps to the aid of his annoying friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel who doubles as the film’s co-writer along with Evan Goldberg (Superbad)). The hockey player would’ve otherwise beaten up the latter because a verbal stoush saw the sportsman climb over the penalty box, ready to fight Ryan in the stands.

But “The Thug” pulverises the bloke and the coach of the Halifax Highlanders sees potential and asks Glatt to join his team. This doesn’t appear to be the brightest move because Glatt can’t skate and has never played hockey. Instead, he’s there to fight and protect the star player.

Glatt becomes a rising star in this colourful team. This “Nicest guy you’ll ever fight” is so charming, sincere and loyal he is very easy to like and empathise with. Plus, he’s loyal to a tee, doing precisely what the team needs, when it needs it (even bleeding). He is a goon and he’s proud of it.

Along the way Glatt’s big heart shines through the most when he falls in love with serial sports groupie, Eva (Alison Pill). For the first time in his life he is happy doing what he’s doing. And while he’s not fulfilling the family’s expectations of becoming a doctor, he is doing something he excels at. Along the way he also meets fellow enforcer, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) who wants to put in one good fight for his final season.

In Goon the ride is actually an unexpectedly, enjoyable one. Although it is at times filled with over-the-top and gritty violence, the energy is kept high and the pacing is flash to match the nature of the sport. There are some jokes peppering the high-octane proceedings and these are most commonly found in the form of swearing, cutting one-liners and sledging (think: “Stevie Wonder on steroids”). It’s a real case of blood, sweat and jeers.

Goon is ultimately a light sports comedy that is not for everyone. Better suited to jocks, some viewers may be put off by the sensational hockey playing (read: brutally violent scenes and fist-to-fist combat). But if you can look beyond this you’ll discover an offbeat, underdog story that is simple fun and filled with solid enough performances to match the punches pulled.

 

Review score: 3.5 stars

Originally published on 12 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/film-review-canadian-film-festival-sydney-2012-goon-ctc

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at:http://www.theaureview.com/

Previous Older Entries