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Tim, in his early 20s, is quiet, dependable, and held close by his mother, Jean, who works long hours at a Sydney canteen and then does stand-up at night, talking constantly about what might have been (if she'd stayed in England, if she'd had no children, if her younger son Mark weren't mildly disabled). She gets enough club work to keep hope alive. They've bought a moving van, and Tim meets Jill, falling for her but finding the challenges of sex, his mother's prying, and his brother's needs more than he can handle. The family - as well as Tim and Jill's relationship - is on the edge of crisis, accident, or, in Jane's case, self-destruction. Are family dynamics set in stone?Written by
This movie is fast disappearing from cinemas, which is a pity, as it is an authentic Australian drama of some substance. Show biz personalities are notoriously lacking in self-confidence, unsuccessful ones even more so. Yet like the lead player here, they still tenaciously cherish the dream of making the big time against all the indications. Jean (Brenda Blethyn) is a British comedienne of the "nudge nudge, wink wink" variety who once appeared with the likes of Benny Hill, but who gave up her career to marry John (Frankie J Holden) an Australian crooner of country music. The marriage produces the brain damaged Mark (Richard Wilson) and shy younger son Tim (Khan Chittenden). John, reduced to being a security guard at a supermarket, moves out and Jean puts in long days at a works canteen to support her family while still trying to resuscitate her stage career with the aid of her sleazy manager Shane. These distractions do not prevent her from being very possessive of her babies and when 20 year old Tim becomes involved with the uninhibited Jill (Emma Booth) Jean's hackles rise.
Perhaps if Jean displayed some real talent as a comedienne it would make up for the fact that she is actually not a very nice person. As it is, it's hard to feel sorry for her. Brenda Blethyn plays her all stops out, which is what the part requires, but it does verge on caricature. The rest of the cast are OK, with Emma Booth very appealing as the free-spirited Jill, but rather overshadowed by Brenda's Queen Lear (or perhaps it should be Queen Leer) act.
The western suburbs of Sydney setting is well realised and one can almost smell those smoky leagues clubs where clapped-out British entertainers go to die. One reviewer has perceptively remarked that the movie is about letting go of your impossible dreams, of your children now they no longer depend on you. In Jean's case her personality and circumstances have combined to make this exceptionally difficult, and it is this that provides the drama. Keith Thompson is a veteran TV writer with a good ear for the Aussie vernacular and he draws his characters from life. The romance between the shy Tim and bold Jill is a pleasant contrast to Jean's fulminations, but Khan Chittenden under-acts a bit. Rebecca Gibney, usually a glamour-puss, is amusing as one of Jean's permanently sloshed friends.
If this was a made for TV piece, the critics would praise it to the skies, but as it is, it's just a decent drama. Watching it I wondered how Julie Walters or Anne Reid would have gone as Jean. Brenda Blethyn is a fine actress, but on this occasion the volume was turned up too loud.
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