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2011 sees a whole new crop of terrific Australian films like RED DOG, THE CUP, EYE OF THE STORM , and now this utterly hilarious spin on female friendship called JUCY after the two main characters. It is a strong contender for one of the most endearing and flat out funny buddy female films since CONNIE AND CARLA or MURIEL'S WEDDING. Two girls who are best friends each go for the same role in a calamitous local theater production of JANE EYRE. However, and hilariously, they rent the 1934 Monogram Pictures poverty row DVD version and scope that out for performance ideas. The local theater scene in perfectly represented by egomaniac and deluded types and even a reasonably handsome male lead. But it is the overall good nature of the film and the survival of the friendship and the very insightful set design and art direction that lifts JUCY above it's modest production budget. Filmed in Brisbane and with a simply charming sense of who they are and what the film is, JUCY will have smart teens and theater twenty-somethings rolling about as they recognize their own selves and friends depicted so neatly on the screen. I really like this film a lot for not being stupid and for being a straightforward intelligent girl comedy about something other than the usual clichés. JUCY is great fun... and even has a brief musical number to top it all off.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jucy is a challenging film.
On one hand the characters are engaging and charming, the subject matter worthy, and the spirit of the film is good.
On the other hand the script is rushed, there are narrative jumps that feel forced, and it is stuck between not knowing if it is a comedy or a drama, and is unsatisfying as both. Part of the problem is mixing relatively serious/believable characters (Jacky, Lucy) with out an out charactertures (Alex, Dimity) you just can't flow convincingly between characters and scenes that come from such a different take on life and the issues covered in the film. I say relatively serious and believable characters because Jackie was hardly an accurate depiction of someone with a mental illness requiring medication she seemed to slip in and out of these states way too conveniently without it having as big an effect on her as it would have in reality.
I think the script needed to be longer, and the subject matter looked at more realistically for it to be a seamless film it could have enjoyed a lot of highs and lows and had a lot of natural comedy in it as well. Or they could have gone the other way and made it a straight out comedy with little depth but still a lesson learnt as the Americans would have made it! It felt like it was compressed into a 90 minute "indie youth comedy" and was restricted by all of the limits and clichés of that form that it took on. Just as the characters within the film needed a more mature take on everything, so to did the film makers about the subject matter of this film and film making in general.
That's the constructive criticism! It's still an enjoyable film with a good purpose, just un-necessarily dragged down by things that shouldn't have dragged it down. It was well made for such a small budget and whatever this crowd do next will be worth watching.
Why can't "girl best friends" remain best friends for ever? You know
why. Problems with guys, that's why. The Australian continent has some
of the choicest two-legged testosterone on the planet (this is a well
known fact), but a lot of it is away somewhere, wrastling with cows,
surf, crocodiles, kangaroos, cane toads, several kinds of football,
bulldozers, articulated road trains and 50-tonne ore transporters -
along with assorted natural disasters, venomous critters and persistent
flies. So the sub-virile pickings back in suburban Brisbane might not
quite get a lady's juices flowing.
Jackie (Cindy Nelson) and Lucy (Francesca Gasteen) don't have a lot going for them. Jackie (with the crimson coiffure) should probably persevere with her psychiatric medication; and Lucy needs to get a proper job, instead of filling in time as Jackie's assistant at the video shop and bludging off her long-suffering uptight sister Fleur, while dreaming of an "acting career". But Jackie and Lucy do have each other. And in this crummy world, even a bumpy "each other" beats going it alone. At first they don't come across as particularly appealing, but give them time - they'll grow on you. If you want to get to know them better, IMDb directs you to the Official Site, where there's a media kit (on Adobe Reader).
So a local amateur theatre group is going to put on a stage version of "Jane Eyre". The play is a bit melodramatic, but Nelson and Gasteen can do melodramatic pretty good - they are real actors, and not just goofing around with this neurosis and buddy shtick (if they want to go on to become a next generation of Rachel Griffiths and Tony Collette, that's fine with me - there, you knew I was going to bring that "Wedding" in somehow). So get your grease-paint on, girls, and let's-- whoops! We have a problem! Who's going to score the role of heroine Jane and who's going to get stuck with that impediment to true love, mad Mrs Rochester? The female romantic lead will apparently get to sleep with the dishy male lead - a duty or a bonus? And then there's an "assistant director" throwing his weight around like he's Orson Welles or someone. It's all enough to strain the best of friendships, even a "Platonic" one (whatever that means). Will this odd coupling ("Jucy") mature? Or will it selfdestruct? Perhaps the two of them would be better off without each other.
Australian film-makers have been experimenting with humour, clashing wild exuberance with dry deadpan. Something similar is being attempted by some "post-feminist" women directors. It doesn't always work, and viewers might find that it's an acquired taste. But if you can forget that someone told you this is a chick flick, "Jucy" is quite a good example of the "unstable fun" genre. Because it's a movie made with love.
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