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A Melbourne family is very happy living where they do, near the Melbourne airport (according to Jane Kennedy, it's "practically their back yard"). However, they are forced to leave their beloved home, by the Government and airport authorities. 'The Castle' is the story of how they fight to remain in their house, taking their case as far as the High Court. Written by
Simon Quinn <G.Quinn@mailbox.uq.edu.au>
Every once and while you find yourself watching a movie you have heard nothing about. A film with no A-Listed actors, no director with a treasure trove of awards and the sheer name of the films title at an office water cooler would result in blank stares and crickets scratching their hind legs in the background. Such was the case with the 1997 Australian gem, The Castle.
Directed by Rob Sitch, who went on to help another underachieving treasure with The Dish, the story is about an Australian family's struggle to keep their home in lieu of being given a compulsory notice from the government that the airport is expanding where their house presently stands. Although I try not to be simplistic and sum up an entire plot in as little as one sentence, really, that is all you need you know to enjoy this independent comedy.
The family is played by a host of unknowns. Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Anthony Simcoe, Sophia Lee and Wayne Hope play Darryl, Sal, Dale, Steve, Tracy and Wayne Kerrigan. The family lives a simple life and enjoys their time together to the fullest. They complement each other at each dinner table, they watch television as a family unit and they spend their time discussing items listed for sale in the trades papers. Their sister just got married and other than the eldest son being in jail for a crime the family holds no grudges, things could not be better.
So when the government sends notice that they must leave their house for the airport expansion, they agree not to go down without a fight and they illicit the help of other street families and a local barrister that has no business defending in Federal Court.
You might think this all sounds very serious for a comedy plot line, but it's the exact opposite. The story begins with a long narration from the youngest son who reflects on how proud he is of his family. He talks about how each member bring a unique talent to the unit and how the father figure is the one that is full of positive reinforcement. The narration and visuals surrounding his description are Australian humor at its best. Whether we are laughing at the fathers adoration and praise of simple tasks like the scooping of ice cream from a tub or the wonderment of family members over an invention of a motorcycle helmet with a brake light on the back, we marvel at the sheer naivety of the family and what it deems to be important.
The best way to covey this functional family unit is to describe it as a family of Woody Boyd's from Cheers or a litter of Joey characters from Friends. They all utter words we would deem obtuse, but it is all in good fun and it comes across as simple people simply observing their surroundings and commenting on how they interact with the world. As example, when Dale Kerrigan is speaking of the family's fame after taking the matters to court, he narrates, `Dad said it was funny how one day you're not famous, and the next day you are. Famous. And then you're not again.' There speech is entirely primitive, but funny in the same vein.
To go into more detail about the film would give away too much and this film must really be viewed and enjoyed without expectation. You may not belly laugh at any time during the short 84 minute running time, but I doubt you won't spend time shaking your head in reaction to something a Kerrigan family member utters with a I can't believe he just said that' notion.
So I recommend The Castle. I recommend it with pause. It is an above average comedy that was made for less money than the cost of the Matrix end credits (They used the family name Kerrigan so they could use Kerrigan trucks during the shoot), but it can teach us a lot about the family unit. Here is a group of simpletons that love each other, respect each other and will do anything to preserve their home'. What better lesson is there than that?
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