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Friday, 2 December 2005

The Extra

Five years in the making - well, the writing at least - The Extra poses the cinematic question: how long do you really need to write a film this average? Sure, there's stuff to enjoy in this almost fairy-tale like story of a would-be actor (scriptwriter Jimeoin) who comes to the big city hoping to be a star but ends up as an extra / leather bar dancer who stumbles into both a (not-so-big) break and love. Jimeoin is a likeable screen presence, Bob Franklin as the shaven-headed night-club owner / movie buff villain deserved a larger role, and Shaun Micallef as a detective / host of a 'crime-stoppers'-style show is a highlight. Problem is, there's no real reason for his character to even be in this film, and he's not the only one. Worse, the story takes forever to get started, and when it does it's too bogged down in subplots and extra characters to really take off. On their own, some individual scenes work well (the romance between Jimeoin's un-named character and fellow extra Claudia seems to belong in a different, much better, movie), but they never come together as anything like a solid story. If The Extra was funnier, none of this would matter. But the laughs are few and far between, and the uneven tone suggests the film-makers weren't even sure how funny a film they wanted to make. Whatever they were aiming for, it must have been better than this.

Anthony Morris

(this review appeared in Forte#347)

Little Fish

If ever a film was crushed by the burden of big expectations, Little Fish is it. Directed by Rowan Woods (his first film since The Boys), and with Cate Blanchett (in her first local effort in years) heading up an all-star cast, this had hit written all over it. So what went wrong? Well, for a film that's beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and has some really impressive sound design, it seems kind of strange that no-one ever asked if an audience really wanted to sit through a half-hour story dragged out to close to two hours. Basically ex-junkie Tracey Heart (Blanchett) wants to start her own business in Sydney's Vietnamese west but she can't get a loan. She hangs out with her mum's ex (Hugo Weaving), her brother (Martin Henderson) acts dodgy, her old boyfriend (21 Jump Street's Dustin Nguyen) returns after years away and wanders around a bit, and a retiring crime figure (Sam Neill) wonders what his right-hand man is up to. Sure, it's important for a movie to have interesting characters - and no-one here is boring - but they eventually have to do interesting things and that's where this falls down. Little Fish is yet another arty character study, and we just don't need any more right now.

Anthony Morris

(this review appeared in Forte#358)