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YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE

SYNOPSIS:
Dim-witted but good-hearted layabouts Philip (Nathan Phillips) and Jeffrey (Angus Sampson) have been friends since school, and now share a small caravan in a suburban caravan park, unemployed for over five years and distraught when they are put on the work for the dole scheme. They are fanatical fans of the tv soap, Sons and Surf, and when it is threatened with the axe, with their favourite babe on the show, Emma (Madeleine West) being killed off, they decide to try and do something about it.

Review by Jake Wilson:
I laughed at parts of You And Your Stupid Mate, but after a while I was depressed by its inert, can’t-be-bothered sensibility and refusal to shift an inch from the worldview of commercial television. As in the same team’s earlier Take Away, Marc Gracie’s direction is pleasingly simple but does little to fire up the tired imaginations of Dave O’Neil and Mark O’Toole, TV writers to their bones. O’Neil’s trademark as a stand-up is his ability to get laughs out of feeble material, as if the banality were the joke. The tone here is more straight but the script still feels deliberately lazy – as if in solidarity with the bludger mentality of its heroes, everymen living a humble but recognisable version of the Aussie good life.

Though the caravan-park setting is no more realistic than the cul-de-sac in Neighbours, the homely local references come thick and fast: tinned spaghetti on toast, the Scouts and Guides Gang Show, Eddie Maguire at the Logies, Work for the Dole. Up to a point, this complicit joking about lowest-common-denominator culture is likeable, as an invitation to let go of pretensions and admit we’re all dags together. But it’s also a kind of trick, masking the gap between the “ordinary” viewers of soap operas or comedies and the professionals who churn them out.

For a while, You And Your Stupid Mate takes this up as a possible theme, with Philip and Jeffrey both presented as amateurs who long in their different ways to enter the magical realm of show business. But in refusing to confront the price of success (or failure) the film lacks the melancholy or cruelty that would give its satire bite. Inevitably, the utopian ending shows yuppies and yobbos mingling on equal terms: in context, this suggests less a faith in the underdog than a neurotic desire to have things both ways. Isn’t it time we retired the myth of the Little Film That Could? Even modesty requires a kind of self-belief.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Disclaimer: I am on good (professional) terms with several of the cast and crew, some producers and one of the writers of this film. I have met them in the course of writing on Australian film for the past 20 odd years. This is unavoidable and the silken threads of these relationships make it painful to publicly unravel their work here. But then if I can't be frank with my opinions about Australian films, I am insulting their intelligence and their professionalism. And I'd be doing a disservice to the craft of film criticism.

You And Your Stupid Mate has a dozen good elements but it fails dismally as a movie. It would be of little consequence if this film were made by people who had aspirations but little talent. The fact is, the whole team is highly talented, intelligent, passionate and professional. Many of them have extensive tv career credits and survive in a highly competitive business.

Some of the film's most glaring weaknesses are to do with the nature of cinema, as distinct from television (or stand up). Such as .... audiences make many allowances for a tv sitcom, and invest little in the short time that it's playing. Our expectations are very different with a film, and our investment - psychological, emotional and in time - are much greater. It's no use throwing funny skits together if the characters are one dimensional and the idea on which the comedy is built is insignificant. For an example of starting with a more serious idea, try : Bridget Jones is a desperate, lonely young woman with bad habits, few prospects, a fat butt and a lousy self image - and she wants dearly to change all that. These two dummies don't ever want to change their empty, useless and dull lives.

To make matters worse, the cast is encouraged to ham it up for laughs in the broadest sense. There is nothing more likely to kill screen comedy than hammy overstatement - not to be confused with the kind of performance genius we see from Robyn Williams or Jim Carrey at their crazy best. What humour there is in the writing is blunted by overheated deliveries, which in part make the characters big zeros. The few who escape with a controlled performance (eg Rachel Hunter, Samir Malik and Akmal Saleh) seem to drift in from another set, where the action is fuelled by genuine character.

It's a poor man's Dumb and Dumber, with none of the redeeming elements; if this is us telling our own stories, I think I'd prefer to watch other cultures tell theirs.

Now I guess I won't have to put that disclaimer at the start of the next movie this team make.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE (M)
(Aust)

CAST: Nathan Phillips, Angus Sampson, Rachel Hunter, William McInnes, Madeleine West, Tayler Kane, Akmal Saleh, Simon Gowling, Samir Malik, Natalie Garonzi

PRODUCER: Marc Gracie, David Redman

DIRECTOR: Marc Gracie

SCRIPT: Dave O'Neil, Mark O'Toole

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Justin Brickle

EDITOR: Michael Collins

MUSIC: Craig Bryant, Yuri Worontschak

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Penny Southgate

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 5, 2005







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