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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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MAD COWS

SYNOPSIS:
Maddy (Anna Friel) is an expat Aussie in London with a baby boy by English git, Alex (Greg Wise), who is neither paternal nor smart - but born into the right society. Desperate Maddy gets into a frightful scrape and lands in jail. She begs her friend Gillian (Joanna Lumley) to take care of her baby until she is out, and Gillian's reluctance - she's not mother material, despite being of motherly age - turns to motherly love once baby Jack (Samuel, George and James Hart-Woods) is in her arms. But a secret adoption racket run by prison psychiatrist Dwina Phelps (Anna Masey) threatens baby Jack.

"Throughout Mad Cows, I had the distinct feeling that it desperately wants to be wacky, unexpected and funny, but sadly doesn't succeed. Distinctly British in flavour, there are some token Australian-isms in the form of a kangaroo/boomerang mobile and a few overt references to the land down under, but essentially it falls down by its script and direction in which overkill plays the starring role. The main problem is that we don't believe it – not any of it, and it's all played for laughs. The best moments belong to Joanna Lumley, whose AbFab-like character brightens up the screen – she is lively, vile and adorable. She stamps on the mail, swigs vodka under the table, visits the Mothercare shop and her scene stealer as a hooker is delectably delicious. Lumley gets all the good lines – 'The first and only male I've succeeded in changing' (as she changes a nappy), is one of my favourites. But that's all the good news. The rest is a combination of overacting, farce that doesn't work and jarring fragmentation. If I could only have related to the central character a bit better, and perhaps liked her a little, instead of thinking what a stupid twit she was, I would have felt more prepared to take the plunge. But maybe that is the point. Perhaps Mad Cows is flaunting an oblique message about motherhood, how it messes you up and you become a stupid weirdo? Possibly in the narrative, Kathy Lette's Mad Cows has charm, humour and panache. Words that the imagination can capture and elevate into entertainment. But the power of the imagination often relies on subtlety and suggestion; this film contains neither of these. There is a very cute baby though – probably the best behaved baby that ever lived –it sleeps through all the tedium, occasionally gurgling and giving a squeamish grin."
Louise Keller

"The (original) written version is undoubtedly funnier, with its surrealism and black farce elements (and the writing itself) but on the screen, Mad Cows is a cowpat in the field of cinema. That's partly because most readers are better directors of their mind-movies that spring from the books they read. Direction - perpetrating some sort of pantomime crime on the screen - is gazumped by a chaotic sense of style, ranging from dazed 60s/70s to dizzying 50s. Too much is left of the written word without turning them into moving pictures. The result is dull. Not only is Mad Cows chronically boring, it is embarrassing in its attempt to be hip. It's like the nerd trying to be one of the gang by wanting to 'slap the street' when s/he means 'let's hit the road'. Despite the talented cast (not called upon to do much used here) Mad Cows suffers from lack of discipline, lack of insight, lack of dramatic tension and lack of comedic flair. There are a couple of funny lines, but the effect is lost because we're forever cringing. This is a serious misjudgment for all concerned, including Geoffrey Roberston in a tiny cameo on the top deck of a London bus. (GR is life partner of the book's author, Cathy Lette, and renowned as the 'hypotheticalist' on tv.) But the baby deserves a BAFTA for Most Stoic Performance Under Extreme Provocation."
Andrew L. Urban



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

MAD COWS (M)
(UK)

CAST: Anna Friel, Joanna Lumley, Greg Wise, Phyllida Law, Rustie Lee, Prunella Scales, Hermione Norris, Anna Massey

DIRECTOR: Sara Sugarman

PRODUCER: Aaron Simpson, Frank Mannion

SCRIPT: Sara Sugarman, Sasha Hails (from the novel by Kathy Lette)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pierre Aim

EDITOR: John Jympson

MUSIC: Mark Thomas

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joseph Nemec III

RUNNING TIME: 90 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2000 (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane)







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