Saturday, September 19, 2009

TIFF 2009 Reviews: Bran Nue Dae

So this is how it all ends? Not with a bang, but with a simper?

Last year, recapped: the final Saturday of the 2008 festival, a muggy day that gave way to storm clouds and a cold autumn rain, I saw three movies to close out my marathons, one of which was the French nightmare Martyrs. Though I'd seen a few terrific films at TIFF '08, I was still already feeling a bit burned out and let down after a truly top-to-bottom spectacular '07, and to end it all with an hour and a half of grisly bodily mutilation and torture was not, to put it mildly, a good move. So this year, not even knowing how disappointing I'd find my screening choices, I was determined to walk out of my final film in an upbeat mood: no dead children, no documentaries about Kafkaesque legal situations, no decaying marriages...just something fun and happy. Hey! There's an Australian musical! Brilliant.

Bran Nue Dae is apparently based on a hit stage play from Down Under, and has been translated to the screen with a thudding obviousness that can only make me wonder how it was a hit in the first place. With a storyline that seems plotted by an eight year-old and song lyrics straight from the "let me put too fine a point on that" school of unintentional comedy and song after song that ends after one verse, Bran Nue Dae could have been deliberate tourisy camp, a giddy self-knowing nostalgic romp in the vein of Grease. But even the slight pleasures of decent tunes and a couple of solid singing voices are steamrolled by Geoffrey Rush who apparently thinks he's doing The Rocky Horror Show and patronizing overacting on the part of most of the Aboriginal performers that borders on minstrelry. (*1/2)

What a way to end the week. Crap. I think I'm going to catch a late show of Jennifer's Body tonight and I'll do a full-festival round-up in the next entry.

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