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My favourite Australian movie of 2009
Kwah-LeBaire from Australia
28 July 2010
My favourite Australian movie of 2009, "Offside" is a boisterous story
about old friends. It works as a tribute to a major strand of suburban
Adelaide society and I think that in years to come it will be regarded
with the same sentimental fondness many Sydney people feel for "The FJ
Holden" (1977), or Melbourne people (such as myself) feel for "Death in
This is a story about two brothers who want the same thing, but go
after it in different ways. For Charlie (Terry Rogers), it's all about
winning; for Frank (Peter Evangelista), the quest is football
excellence. Meanwhile, their suburban team is made up of old school
friends who have a range of issues of their own. Damon (Peter Michell)
is married to Isabella (Elena Carapetis), who is slowly turning her
ocker* husband into an Italian. Angelo (Sam Tripodi) is married to Lisa
(Kimberley Hart); she wants him to focus on starting a family. Kon
(Frank Romeo) and Mark (Saxon Cordeaux) are slackers; they work for
Sarah (Chloe Gardner), who fancies Charlie. And Charlie fancies Katie
(Georgii Speakman), the unattainable sexy blonde with a secret.
The guys are all approaching the end of their football careers. Family
responsibilities, age and business pressures combine to make this their
last season together and they would love to go out as champions. To
this end, they embrace serious training and adopt a few questionable
tactics. When Uncle Vito, the godfather of the piece, backs the boys to
win the cup to the tune of $50,000, the tensions increase.
Meanwhile, Charlie's search for true love hits a major hurdle. In a
moment reminiscent of Harvey Keitel's problem updated to 2009
sensibilities in the Martin Scorsese movie, "Who's That Knocking At
My Door" (1967), Charlie has to decide if Katie is the kind of girl he
can safely take home to mother. This film contains other muted echoes
of Scorsese's struggle with his Catholic upbringing, suggesting
first-time writer/director Gian Carlo is emerging from a similar place.
Terry Rogers (Charlie) and Peter Evangelista (Frank) carry the movie.
Rogers brings athletic good looks, excellent timing and the kind of
smoldering sensitivity that would play well in a major romantic comedy.
(He managed a number of scenes with his shirt off and looked good
enough to embarrass Hugh Jackman.) Peter Evangelista makes a welcome
return to the screen after a long absence. He has the kind of quiet
intelligence you can see on the screen and the calm he managed in the
midst of turbulent exuberance made the whole thing work.
Special mention to Elena Carapetis (Isabella), for me the 'find' of the
movie. It turns out she is a NIDA graduate and has been around the
stage and television ("Heartbreak High", "Blue Heelers") scenes for
years, but I hadn't come across her before. Elena played the sensible,
caring wife with absolute conviction. If she gets the opportunity in
other roles, she has a chance of becoming one of the great Australian
Georgii Speakman (Katie) has the sexy good looks you'd expect of
someone in her role, but she doesn't depend on them. She handles
herself with timing, grace and sensitivity. Chloe Gardner (Sarah), as
the ambitious pursuer of Charlie and patient boss of Kon and Mark,
showed she has the potential to play an excellent James Bond-type
seductive female villain.
Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann (Leechy) didn't rely on his background as a
stand-up comedian (a welcome departure in Australian film circles), but
used his limited opportunities to impose a physical and psychological
presence on screen. I'd love to see him given an expanded role in
The characters in "Offside" are messy human beings, with all the
anxieties, insecurities, dreams, confusions, misunderstandings and
failings common to ordinary people everywhere. For anyone who grew up
in an ethnic Australian neighbourhood, this film will be an amusing
trip down memory lane. For people from a more Anglo background, it
works as a window into a culture which is distantly familiar, yet
filled with subtle differences.
Another of the surprises of this low-budget film is the music. I didn't
recognise any of the band names, but the music is varied, appropriate
"Offside" extracts every cent of value from the dollars spent, and then
some. The cast turned in remarkable performances, and the crew achieved
extraordinary results, given a 28 day turnaround with limited access to
locations. Could it have been improved? Of course. A big bag of money
would have lifted some technical areas, but it would be a mistake to
focus on that too much. Sometimes the sound leaves dialogue unclear,
but that's mostly in scenes where there is a lot of crowd noise, such
as at parties, where crowd noise obscuring speech is a common
experience. Given that this was an independent film, made without
recourse to any of the government funding agencies, the results are
well above any reasonable expectation.
All in all, an enjoyable movie. Highly recommended. I give it 7/10.
*ocker. Slang, meaning 'an uncouth Australian'. Typically convivial,
working class Australians, with a fondness for drink and off-colour
humour. Chips Rafferty, Bryan Brown, Bill Hunter, and Paul Hogan have
all portrayed men from this class on screen.
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