Life is good for ad man Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammall) - he leads a party boy lifestyle, has a model fiancˇe (Abbey Lee) and lives in a house on the water. He's at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands Ruben at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive. His mum hits the panic button and then his fiance leaves him, but not before issuing him one final challenge: if Ruben can do one year without a drink, she'll give him another chance... Ruben Guthrie is the story of one man not only battling the bottle, but the city that won't let him put it down.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its alcohol saturated opening scene and a shriek of 'Let's get smashed', Brendan Cowell's debut feature begins, amid bottles galore, glasses, bikini-clad girls, laughter and rambunctious excess. Based on Cowell's stage play, the film is as high spirited as the subject matter, delving into the social pressures surrounding the drinking culture and its effects on life, love and family. Grounded by an Australian sensibility, there's an appealing energy about the film that taps into home truths with humour and satire. The fact that leading man Patrick Brammall physically resembles Cowell is a curious bonus, and Brammall is terrific as the out of control advertising executive who loses everything before embarking on a journey of discovery to reclaim his life.
In the opening scenes, we discover what it's like to be Ruben Guthrie (Brammall), who is literally flying high but sinking low, as he splashes to a halt in his plush pad's swimming pool. It's about the lifestyle of a successful ad executive and the expectations of his former alcoholic boss Ray (Jeremy Sims), his anorexic model girlfriend Zoya (Abbey Lee), his well-meaning mother Susan (Robyn Nevin), his booze-swigging father Peter (Jack Thompson), his excess-loving gay best friend Damian (Alex Dimitriades) and new love Virginia (Harriet Dyer), the support group hippie, who relies on showers as an anti-stress measure.
From each section of his life, Ruben is pressured, beginning at home, when Zoya's one-year alcohol-free ultimatum is delivered, as she walks out the door to go home to Prague and Mummy. Lee is highly convincing, as she pouts the supermodel pout; her slim, tall physicality ideal for the role. Although she is absent for much of the film, her presence remains throughout by way of an oversized portrait, being the main feature of Guthrie's apartment deluxe. The spacious apartment makes its own presence felt, its glass walls revealing splendid water views and a fully stocked bar that would not be out of place in an international hotel.
The group sessions are not especially well conceived or done, but the development of the relationship between Ruben and green-haired Virginia whose eyes are firmly locked on him, is one of the main story strands. The scene when Zoya and Virginia eventually meet is very funny, especially as Virginia is wearing Zoya's pink koala T-shirt. Also funny are the scenes involving Dimitriades, who does 'bad' well. Not surprisingly, there is a mutual intolerance between Damian and Virginia (he calls her Vagina), and we always know who will come out trumps. Jack Thompson is excellent, as the restaurateur father who believes life without alcohol is not living, while Robin Nevin has some amusing scenes, although her character is a bit of a caricature.
Does Ruben succeed at abstaining from alcohol for a year? Does Zoya come back to him? And what happens then? All this and more is revealed in this brash, forthright and funny film to which Australian audiences will relate and embrace. Sydney looks gorgeous - the harbour; the beaches - and Sarah Blasko's music score is a treat. Ruben Guthrie was the Opening Night Film at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival.
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RUBEN GUTHRIE (M)
CAST: Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimiriades, Abbey Lee, Harriet Dyer, Jeremy Sims, Brenton Thwaites, Aaron Bertram, Robyn Nevin, Jack Thompson
PRODUCER: Kath SHelper
DIRECTOR: Brendan Cowell
SCRIPT: Brendan Cowell (based on the stage play Ruben Guthrie by Brendan Cowell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Harding
EDITOR: Peter Crombie
MUSIC: Sarah Blasko
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Cousins
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 16, 2015