Digger Kelly (Gary Sweet) and his son Jack (Ashley Bradnam) are carpenter builders in Hervey Bay, Queensland. The Kelly family is deeply involved in the community. Digger coaches the local rugby league team with his old mate Singlet (Bruce Spence), while Jack and his mate Solly (Aaron Fa'Aoso) play for the team. Mother Betty (Kris McQuade) does the books. Their world is threatened by the arrival of a southern property developer led by hot young executive Tiffany (Brooke Satchwell). Digger and his crew have long relied on local developer Harry (Steve Bisley) for work but when Harry goes belly up, the whole community is thrown into turmoil. Digger and Jack fall out and when Jack starts courting Tiffany for work, Digger accuses him of disloyalty. As the community unravels in the face of change, Jack strives to find a way out.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For all the puff and huff and all the baggage that is given prominence in the film, it's really about good old Aussie mateship. At its heart, the story is simple, but it's made rather complicated and clunky by a combination of its meandering structure, unremarkable scripting and some difficulties with dialogue. (It may need subtitles, even in English speaking countries - and even in Australia.)
We are shown lots of sporting encounters as a way of enforcing the interlocking lives of the characters, but it becomes tedious because the filmmakers haven't found an interesting way to put it on the screen. Neither the music, production design nor the cinematography provide elements that make the film stand out. It's OK, but Australians can't make OK films; like any small film producing country, we have to make films that are unique, that have bite, that resonate and that are irresistible to other Australians. I'm not sure who will find Subdivision appealing, never mind irresistible.
It's fitfully amusing, but I found myself bored by various passages in Subdivision, despite my respect and admiration for the cast, from the sassy Brooke Satchwell as Tiffany and Kathryn Beck as Dale to seasoned pros Gary Sweet, Streve Bisley, Bruce Spence and the indefatigable Kris McQuade. Also effective is Aaron Fa'aso as the likeable Solly as Dale's love interest. The latter is a romantic subplot that's thrown away, while more is made of the (equally interesting) father/son relationship between Sweet's Digger and Ashley Bradnam's Jack - the latter also responsible for a large part of the screenplay.
Perhaps another year or two in script development might have added more fun, or more risk or more conflict ... or something more cinematically dramatic than a creditors' meeting for a builder going bankrupt to bind it all into a cohesive and incisive comedy.
Review by Louise Keller:
The clear turquoise waters of Hervey Bay sparkle in the opening areal shot, when the plane carrying Brooke Satchwell's go-getter property developer Tiffany nears the Queensland coastline. Hervey Bay is the setting for this Australian comedy in which community, family and loyalty are the main ingredients. First time screenwriter Ashley Bradnam (who also stars as the ambitious son, cocky lover and good mate), has written a film with stereotypical characters that are quintessentially true blue. The dialogue too, is full of ockerisms; while expressions like 'stuffed up', 'd*ckhead,' 'on the piss' and 'going to the knuckle' may endear some Aussie audiences, they may equally make the film difficult to sell overseas. It's amiable enough, but the film is played for laughs and often feels forced, bearing the hallmark of many Australian films in that the script would benefit from further development.
They're a footy-loving community, who work and play together. By day, there are houses to build, but equally important is drinking time, playing pool and basketball. Gary Sweet's Digger, who runs his own building outfit, also coaches the local footy team. Work is a family affair, so when Bradman's hot-headed Jack decides to go out on his own, a rift begins.
The performances are fine: Gary Sweet is always solid and it's good to see Steve Bisley and Bruce Spence on screen. Satchwell has good presence and Bradnam gives a suitably energetic performance. I also liked Aaron Fa'aoso as Solly, who lucky for us, talks to himself as he breaks into Tiffany's office, so we know that he's looking 'for the yellow folder under the desk'. The story however feels light and trite. There are no surprises and so much (like Jack wearing the pink ballet dress in the back of the ute) is overdone. It's hard to believe in the romance between Tiffany and Jack either: it simply isn't credible to imagine anyone asking that special someone out after puking over the side of the pier, nor for that someone to accept! The story resolution too, fails to satisfy.
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CAST: Gary Sweet, Ashley Bradnam, Bruce Spence, Aaron Fa'Aoso, Kris McQuade, Brooke Satchwell, Steve Bisley, James Stewart, Kathryn Beck, John Batchelor, Petta Robertson, Luke Carroll, Denise Roberts, Peter Adams
PRODUCER: Trish Lake, Owen Johnston
DIRECTOR: Sue Brooks
SCRIPT: Ashley Bradnam, Janice Bradnam, Terry McCann
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Stokes
EDITOR: Jane Moran
MUSIC: not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nick McCallum
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: NSW & Qld: August 20, 2009; VIC, WA, SA: Aug 26, 2010