WELCOME TO WOOP WOOP
The story of Teddy (Jonathan Shaech), a street wise hawker of exotic Australian birds from New York, who flees the Big Apple to escape the hoods who have been shot up by his girlfriend (Rachel Griffiths). He flees to Australia's Northern Territory, and ends up shackled in the outback to a vivacious sex kitten, Angie (Susie Porter), and her weird folk in Woop Woop. Shanghaied with bravado into her bed and her family, Teddy seeks escape again, this time from the community which Daddy-O (Rod Taylor) runs with an iron fist, usually around a cold tinny of Fourex (that's beer to youse lot outside Woop Woop). Spam and pineapple chunks are mandatory. Escape is illegal.
"Other than its brilliant opening sequence in New York, Welcome to Woop Woop is somewhat in the tradition of Beresford's Bazza McKenzie films with its brazen and perhaps old fashioned celebration of Australian humour in the most rustic style. A whoopie-cushion sort of film, as Elliott himself will say. But of course, it is nothing like the Bazza McKenzie films: Elliott is far more subversive. In particular, he adds a surreal element with the frequent, inappropriate use of Rodgers & Hammerstein (known by Angie as "Rodgerson") - in all the 'wrong' places at all the 'wrong' times. Some of the humour in the film is rather fast and/or sophisticated, though, despite appearances. This will be the hardest aspect of the film to market - and to appreciate. Fast, like the clip from The Sound of Music (yes, that too) featuring a line of dialogue that Elliott intends us to mis-hear. It will offend many and for others it will be screamingly funny. Sophisticated, like many of the lines that at once parody and boast of their heritage. There are many risks, not just in the music, which makes the film a genuine joyride for the adventurous: Paul Mercurio's character is one, and what happens to him is another. The "dog day" scene; the unblushing and constant strong language of day to day outback Australia; the 'roo meat workers up to their armpits in blood and 'Rodegerson' . . . It is all so unrelentingly over the top that its world premiere audience at Cannes (a hardened lot, you'd have thought) were dumbfounded. Gobsmacked, as Rod Taylor's Daddy-O might have said. Elliott has since cut great chunks out of the film, some 20 minutes, and to good effect. It has also served to underline the darker side of the work as displayed in the original novel, which Elliott wanted to tone down. In fact, it's a bit like trying to mask a bad smell with perfume, where the perfume is Elliott's irrepressible whoopie cushion sense of humour. Great photography, grotesquely kitsch but fitting production design and these truly bizarre elements - plus the memorable characters - will all no doubt help make it at least a cult classic, an ode to Australian sensibilities that have now almost vanished. Taylor's return to Australian cinema in this virtuoso performance covers everything from the fluent argot of Australian outback to a razzle dazzle tap dance routine on the bar, complete with electric sparkling shoes. Susie Porter is at least as remarkable in a great ensemble cast, as are Dee Smart - and Maggie Kirkpatrick and Richard Moir, in their very different ways. Woop Woop is strong meat: it's Elliott's first film since Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and if you thought that was off the wall, you ain't been to Woop Woop."
Andrew L. Urban
"It's debauched, absurd, weird, wacky, tacky and very funny - Welcome to Woop Woop has Steph Elliott's distinctive mark stamped all over it. Unafraid of excess, Elliott has created an isolated world of seedy Australianisms bonded together by the most outrageous characters, and punctuated by musical jokes. In a stroke of inspired casting, Rod Taylor looms larger than life as the lewd Daddo-O, and basically steals the film. His character is vile and vulgar, yet Taylor manages to inject a dose of charm that is hard to ignore. The scene in the bar when he tap dances on electric sparking feet is quite sensational. It's not about plot, it's about bizarre characters - and there are lots of them. Susie Porter, as the hot-to-trot Angie, is fresh, uninhibited and gives a delightfully memorable performance. Johnathon Schaech is solid as Teddy, while there's great support from Dee Smart and Maggie Kirkpatrick. Watch out for a raucous cameo by Barry Humphries, a brief appearance by Elliott himself, and a juicy surprise to see Australian Buena Vista chief Alan Finney in action behind the bar. Littered with bad taste and crude humour, Lizzie Gardiner has plenty of scope for costumes, the production design is amazing, as is the stark, vast, flat, red Australian landscape. The use of music is striking - purists will bury heads in hands and moan, but for the adventurous, the contrasts deliver an overflow of pathos: Guy Gross's score is cleverly interwoven in between the Rogers and Hammerstein classics. Woop Woop is a romp - it's not for everyone, but those who jump aboard the ride, will be blown away by the absurdity of it all."
"Stephan Elliott is certainly one of Australia's most audacious artists, and there's little doubt that remnants of that audacity remain in this quizzical oddity of a film. One can understand its symbolic inferences, attempts to redefine the Australian character but in so doing, the film's harsh treatment of the Australian character serves to alienate the very audience that would find the film interesting. On the plus side, the film looks quite stunning, the design of this weird outback town is imaginative, and the use of Rogers and Hammerstein music is delightfully effective. The film's main problem is that its characters are so disgusting, and so grotesque to the extreme, that the film's cleverness becomes somewhat dissipated. The performances are variable, from a dull and confused Jonathan Schaech, an amusingly raucous Susie Porter (who's far more endearing in the upcoming Amy), and an unrecognisable Rod Taylor. Woop Woop is a film full of potential and there's no denying its sense of originality and satiric humour. It's a film with plenty of vivid insight into the outback character, but despite some wonderful intentions, is the Australian movie audience ready to be confronted by an image of the ugly Australian. One has a distinct feeling that as brazen as it is, audiences may be unwilling to embrace its dark and often ugly message."
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SUBVERSION IN THE OUTBACK
Andrew L. Urban followed Elliott and the film, from the outback to its world premiere at Cannes.
See Andrew L. Urban's interview on-set with
See Paul Fischer's interview with
WELCOME TO WOOP WOOP (M) 15+
CAST: Jonathan Schaech, Rod Taylor, Dee Smart, Susie Porter, Richard Moir, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Mark Wilson, Paul Mercurio, Barry Humphries, Rachel Griffiths
EXEC PRODUCERS: Steve Woolley, Nik Powell
PRODUCERS: Finola Dwyer, Antonia Barnard
DIRECTOR: Stephan Elliott
SCRIPT: Michael Thomas, based on the novel, The Dead Heart, by Douglas Kennedy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Molloy
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Owen Patterson
COSTUME DESIGNER: Lizzie Gardiner
MUSIC: Guy Gross
INTERNATIONAL SALES: Samuel Goldwyn
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 1998
VIDEO RELEASE: April 1999
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.