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WALK THE TALK

SYNOPSIS:
Recently released from prison, Joey Grasso (Savatore Coco) is a determined follower of self-help gurus and is romantically attached to paraplegic Bonita (Sacha Horler), whom he met at a revivalist church. Smitten by down-on-her-luck Gold Coast club singer Nikki Raye (Nikki Bennett) Joey decides to open a talent agency using funds from Bonita's insurance payout. With his one and only client's half-hearted support Joey sets his sights on turning Nikki into a major star.

"With Walk the Talk, Shirley Barrett has confirmed her unique talent as writer and filmmaker, a talent that was evident in her 1995 Camera d’Or winning debut, Love Serenade - unjustly ignored by Australian audiences, but the trigger for DreamWorks to offer to finance her next film, which turned out to be Walk the Talk. The script is a bustling bundle of characters, each identifiable, rounded and complex, even the supports. The film owes much of its texture to this fullness, delivered through exceptional performances. Barrett has made a very funny film – as distinct from a comedy - but she wisely directed her actors to play it as drama. To each of them the decisions and actions they go through are serious stuff. We laugh only because they ring with the pain of truth: Joey’s innocently intended obsession – sensationally portrayed by Salavatore Coco - is funny because it is so overtly naďve and his sincerity blinds him to the effects of his actions. As outsiders, we think this amusing; as a participant, Joey does not. There are many elements that help give the film its haunting quality: Sacha Horler as the sweet but feisty paraplegic (with a great voice) who acts as Joey’s reluctant venture capitalist, for one. There is a short and subtle moment when we are given a clue that her accident was her father’s fault. It’s a detail that serves to explain more than just her condition, while expanding on her relationship with Joey, who stuck by her. Joey’s no ratbag, then. Indeed, it’s his endearing quality that makes him a greedy motive away from being a charming conman. He is not one, but he acts like one. And he causes havoc in the very lives for which he means to fulfil dreams. The Gold Coast is an ideal setting for the story, where people often search for dreams and success, escape and eternal happiness (or at least a good weekend). Carter Edwards and Nikki Bennett are real club performers, but its their characterisations that impress. What makes Barrett’s work special is her accurate eye for character, for aspects of male/female relationships, and her uncanny ability to draw such complete and effective performances from her actors. Walk the Talk is a brilliant film, at once funny and poignant - this year’s Muriel’s Wedding."
Andrew L. Urban

"There's no such thing as failure in Walk the Talk, Shirley Barrett's bitingly brilliant black comedy that captures our imagination and hearts. Barrett once again establishes a unique world that entices, beguiles and totally charms us with a beautifully observed screenplay and characters, who although severely flawed, we can't help but like. Walk the Talk captures only too well a world with which I am familiar – I worked as a professional singer for 14 years, some of it in club-land, an unreal world fraught with extreme highs and lows. From club land, where singers compete with conversation, PA systems and pokies, to the hypnotic world of the evangelist and self-improvement groups, the mood is tellingly created. It's a beautifully measured and complete work; we are never told too much and our imagination is encouraged to stretch like plasticine. The Gold Coast, where gold often spells insincerity, works well as the backdrop for this story of dreams. Salvatore Coco has great appeal as the misguided Joey Grasso; being drawn to vulnerability is his strength but also his downfall. Coco offers just the right combination of the earnest, the pathetic and the comic to create a complex character. Although we recognise all his weaknesses, we never laugh at him – we are always kept in touch with his redeeming qualities. Nikki Bennett is a terrific find – she is just right as the self-centered singer, while Sacha Horler delivers yet another marvellous performance as the selfless Bonita. Horler is disarming in her ability to convey her emotions; they are transmitted in an enchanting journey from the screen straight into our hearts. The entire cast is superb; Carter Edwards is the epitome of the tight-trousered, ego-driven club singer, while cameos from Baby John Burgess and Jon English are simply inspired. Wonderfully offbeat with an acute sense of the ridiculous, Walk the Talk is the most enjoyable and accessible Australian film I've seen this year, and one whose magic will surely spread."
Louise Keller

"In her 1995 debut, Love Serenade, writer/director Shirley Barrett displayed a striking feel for comedy and the pathos in her characters. Walk the Talk has similar strengths and a more rewarding story that makes this a more satisfying and entertaining outing. Her choice of settings is an inspired one - the slightly tatty end of the entertainment spectrum on the Gold Coast where dreamers like Joey and modest talents like Nikki Raye scrap around for their slice of the audience dollar. Add side elements like Christian revival churches and self-motivation groups and Australia's answer to Vegas (or perhaps Reno is a more accurate parallel) gets its long overdue moment in the spotlight. Barrett could have taken the easy way out and simply played the whole thing for laughs (and there are some very funny moments here) but she offers more by shading her gallery of oddballs with an affection that makes us care even when they're chasing seemingly ridiculous goals. Joey Grasso, impressively played by Salvatore Coco in his first starring role, is a "wog boy" to the name born. A motor mouth "Gold Coast Danny Rose" with crazy notions and sometimes dishonourable methods but lurking under there is a good heart and the desire to make it - somehow, anyhow. Bonita doesn't get the usual "victim immunity" either - she's a trial at times and gives Joey's hare-brained straying some motivation. There's also a tenderness toward Nikki who seems to be going along for the ride but reveals more to her potentially cardboard character. Special kudos also to real-life club singer and first time actress Nikki Bennett (discovered by Barrett while watching The Midday Show) who is totally convincing in the role. This is a well observed slice of rather deranged Australian life that wins you over with its sincerity. It runs off the track a little toward the end as Joey executes his ultimate publicity stunt but the energy and appeal generated earlier see it through. The one notable downside is the look of the film. It appears to have been deliberately over-exposed on occasions and shot with little or no colour correction in some daylight scenes. The effect resembles the hideous bleach bypass process that gave The Well and segments of the upcoming The Goddess Of 1967 an ugly blue look. I know the idea here was to draw the characters away from potentially garish backgrounds but, as a lapsed member of the Australian Cinematographers Society who admires technical innovation and experimentation where appropriate, it simply looked awful to me. In many ways I hope I'm in the minority and audiences will embrace the 'look' but somehow I'm not sure."
Richard Kuipers

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TRAILER

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HEAR Andrew L. Urban's interview with

SHIRLEY BARRETT

WALK THE TALK (M)
(Australia)

CAST: Salvatore Coco, Sacha Horler, Nikki Bennett, Carter Edwards, Robert Coleby, Skye Wansey, John Burgess, Jon English, Nicki Wendt, David Franklin, Bille Brown

DIRECTOR: Shirley Barrett

PRODUCER: Jan Chapman

SCRIPT: Shirley Barrett

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mandy Walker

EDITOR: Denise Haratzis

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steven Jones-Evans

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 15, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 27, 2001







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