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In the Summer of 1969 a young man is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome - fishing, hanging out with his mates and his girl. However his mother returns him to the religious mission for further schooling. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away from the mission on a journey that ultimately leads him back home. Written by
Bran Nue Dae is an honest attempt at providing us with a light-hearted Indigenous-fueled musical comedy, that instead of dwelling on the wrongs and injustice that have been bestowed upon their culture and past by white society, decides to celebrate everything Aboriginal. This is an enormous shift in tone from previous films such as Samson & Delilah, in which the protagonist sniffs copious amounts of petrol, and at one point is living homeless under a bridge in Alice Springs (though it does feature one of the most beautifully minimalist relationships I have seen Samson only speaks a single word during the film). It is also a far cry from Rabbit Proof Fence, which deals with the whole "Stolen Generation" debacle (probably not an appropriate word choice). So it is nice to see a more joyful film coming out of the Aboriginal community. But, even despite its best intentions, Bran Nue Dae is in no way a great film, and in fact actually teeters on the edge of being a bad film.
Bran Nue Dae tells the story of a boy named Willie (Rocky McKenzie cinematic virgin), who lives in Broome, and is destined for priesthood. Despite his supposed destiny, Willie feels a lustful urge towards a young girl named Rosie (Jessica Mauboy). Before he is given a chance to fully explore his feelings, Willie is sent back to a Christian boarding school, ruled over by Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush Shine, Pirates Of The Caribbean). After an incident involving a few Cherry Ripes and a paddle, Willie runs away, attempting to make his way back up to Broome with the help of a drunkard named Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo), a hippie named Annie (Missy Higgins), and German man named Slippery (Tom Budge Round The Twist) who is looking for his father. So they travel, they endure conflict, and it all gets resolved, etc etc.
BND is essentially a feel-good movie, but being so leads it to take route down a never-ending display of cliché avenues. Most of the characters are built entirely on stereotypes the hippie, the bad-boy, etc. And so little character development takes place that the characters are merely shadows with names. The acting, however, is decent. McKenzie gives an overall solid performance, and though his speech does often falter, he is steady enough to be warranted watchable. Mauboy just mostly stands there and looks pretty with hardly anything to do can she act? After this, I sure as hell don't know. Then the Rushinator comes in to spice things up, and you can almost see the rest of the cast looking over at him and taking notes. Not much can be said about Missy's performance other then that she tries her best, and though I didn't find her particularly appealing as an actor, I was thankful that she wasn't particularly painful either. And then there was Mr Dingo the film's savior. He has a comedic air and sense of timing that is not prevalent for most of the other actors in the cast. He is charming whether he be getting drunk, singing along to Rolf Harris, or just smacking a snake against a tree.
Magda Szubanski shows up for a cameo, which can only be said to be rather pointless, other then giving Dingo something more to work with, or if you like her jiggling her breasts around. Actually, that was the problem with a lot of the film most of it just seemed far too pointless.
It's a musical, so I guess something has to be said about the music. The music was okay I guess, despite the fact that every single song seemed to be launched into rather awkwardly. Most added very little to the plot, but their was a particularly appealing song about wanting to be nothing but an Aborigine. Other then that I wasn't particularly impressed with the music the film had to offer. The vocals were fine, Ernie Dingo once again being an obvious standout, but that is really just a mater of personal preference.
I guess, cutting it to the core, what I didn't like about the film was just how corny it was. Everything was smothered in cheese, resulting in it playing out much like a Bollywood film. I do have to applaud it for that though. It never attempts to be anything more then a big hunk of happiness, and occasionally the happiness can be really quite infectious. It's incredibly cheesy, but often the lyrics of the songs are actually incredibly smart. It' s a mixed bag really, because despite being a bad film, you can't really exit the theater feeling anything but happy. So it succeeds in its goals, though it aims lower then it should have. The ending though? Brilliant. Terrible, but brilliant. It is just one big "stuff you" to rationality, and believability. They want you to feel good, so why not just tie everything together in the most ridiculous way possible? Bran Nue Dae is based on the stage production of the same name, and is Rachel Perkins 3rd movie. I will neither recommend it, nor suggest you don't watch it.
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