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MULLET

SYNOPSIS:
Eddie (Ben Mendelsohn) – best known as Mullet ‘round these parts [like the fish, he is not entirely appealing] – returns to his home village of Coollawarra on the coast, after a three year absence. He left so abruptly and disappeared without trace so completely, his girl Tully (Susie Porter) didn’t even have a chance to invite him to her wedding – to Mullet’s older brother Pete (Andrew S. Gilbert). The unease with which the town greets Mullet doesn’t diminish when it becomes clear his fractious ways haven’t changed. His motives for coming back are clear enough – it’s home. But his return disturbs not only his family’s calm but the small town’s very fabric. His mum (Kris McQuade) and his dad (Tony Barry) are there for him – in their rustic sort of way – but Tully is confused and Pete is unsure…Only Kay (Belinda McClory), the barmaid at the pub, has some sort of clean cut affection for Mullet – even though she doesn’t much like a lot of what he does.

From the first frames, Mullet has that exhilarating effect that signal a real treat. In some ways, it reminds me a little of how I felt when I first saw Ingmar Bergman’s films (no direct comparison intended) with their absolute truth of character in a culturally and geographically specific setting. The story (evoking the basic premise of George Ogilvie’s The Crossing ([1989], starring Russell Crowe) evolves through the decisions that each makes, and we are never given advance knowledge or a specially privileged point of view. This makes the film both refreshingly unpredictable and beautifully taut. Script, direction, performances, design, widescreen images and a magic, Neil Young-influenced score make this the Australian film of the year to date - in my [pre]viewing schedule, to end of March 2001, at any rate. Full of humanity and detailed observations, David Caesar’s direction give Mullet great texture, and the script oozes with economy – an oxymoron meaning that he conveys much more than what is said. Indeed, the dialogue is so crisp and true to character and culture that often what is said is in actual contrast to what is meant. This is gold class writing. Then there is his exceptional attention to detail which adds not only credence to action but depth to character. Other than the seamless and creatively excellent technicals, it is the performances that drive this film, performances from an ensemble cast which, for each of them, marks a real high point in their careers. And none repeat anything they’ve done before; quite a feat. Involving yet laconic as all get out, fearlessly individual yet totally accessible, Mullet is that rare film of great simplicity harbouring great complexity - another Bergman trait I recall. Here, in the small coastal town of Coollawarra, with a mere 1,500 souls, Caesar builds an entire world of relationships that are the centre of the universe – for these characters. Plus he manages to tease us for the entire running time, and then deliver a beautifully nuanced pay off. This film is the real thing.
Andrew L. Urban

Mullet is about a sweet fish that no-one wants to eat. It's about wild card Eddie Maloney, whose nickname is Mullet. And it's about life in a sleepy country fishing town. But most of all, it's about life, family, making do with what you've got and how to get what you want. David Caesar's Mullet is a simply an outstanding Australian film that shouldn't be missed. Gorgeous sunsets, open landscapes, picturesque rivers and cinematic images are punctuated by piercing guitar chords that modulate slowly and deliberately. The mood of this small community and its life of football, fishing, the pub and home life is beautifully captured and described. Best of all is the marvellous portrayal of that underbelly of family life, when husband and wives, brothers and sisters bicker about the minutiae of life. These are scenes when truth and honesty shine as brightly as the midday sun; they are not only funny, but are acute observations of Australianisms and attitudes. Caesar has created a wonderful script with a powerful emotional arc and brought together a superb cast. Ben Mendelsohn is perfect as hothead Mullet, who has always run away when the going gets tough. Another great subtle performance by Andrew S. Gilbert, whose Pete exudes genuine decency but cannot express his emotions, while Susie Porter is just right as Tully. Belinda McClory bares her soul as Kay - her loneliness becomes her excuse. Tony Barry and Kris McQuade as Dad and Mum offer some of the film's most memorable exchanges: we ache by the very realness of the situations. Mullet is really a sweet surprise. The gritty slice of life we see and feel encompasses us, involves us and affects us greatly. The power of its emotional impact shouldn't be underestimated. It's a true Australian gem.
Louise Keller

David Caesar's enthusiasm for backyard Australia has delivered interesting if uneven results in his previous features Greenkeeping and Idiot Box. The same can be said for this foray into the fictional fishing village of Coollawarra where returning son Eddie "Mullet" Maloney stumbles along trying to find answers to questions he's not even sure of. While this is played in too low a key to excite major box-office action, it does present an enjoyable enough stroll around a collection of well drawn Australian characters portrayed by a first-rate cast. The feel of the working class community is effectively depicted in the rugby league and beer pre-occupations of the male inhabitants and the "find a decent guy and marry him" approach of most of the women. Eddie's dad Col coaches the local footy team and takes pride in the flush of the new dunny he installed himself. His Aussie battle-axe wife Gwen rolls her eyes and complains but loves her boofhead with a look that makes perfect sense of the "til death us do part" marriage vow. This is Australia where ABC radio rather than SBS television holds sway in the household. Apart from the dramatic tension surrounding Eddie's wayward attempts to reclaim Tully there isn't all that much apparently happening on the surface of Mullet. It's what's underneath that makes this visit to Coollawarra a worthwhile one for audiences who appreciate character over incident. Andrew S Gilbert brings great pathos to his role as the Mr Nice Guy whose contentment is threatened by Eddie's return and Susie Porter gives Tully a complexity that makes her a prize worth winning. Also noteworthy is the consistently excellent Belinda McClory as the barmaid whom you feel has the potential to achieve what Eddie clearly hasn't in the big city, if only she could be bothered. There are incidental charms along the way including the alarmingly frank observations of younger sister Robbie and a neat running gag about the declining value and desirability of the fish Eddie is famous for catching. While I wasn't rivetted by Mullet, it was refreshing to see an Australian film set somewhere other than an urban center populated by 20-somethings looking for love. It tries a little too hard to be true-blue - there is far too much use of the words "mate" and "bloody" in the script - but it's an honest piece of work and worth a look.
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

DAVID CAESAR interview by Andrew L. Urban

TRAILER

MULLET (M15+)
(AUS)

CAST: Ben Mendelsohn, Susie Porter, Andrew S. Gilbert, Belinda McClory, Tony Barry, Kris McQuade, Peta Brady, Wayne Blair, Steve Le Marquand, Aaron Blabey

DIRECTOR: David Caesar

PRODUCER: Vincent Sheehan

SCRIPT: David Caesar

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bob Humphreys

EDITOR: Mark Perry

MUSIC: Paul Healy

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: June 28, 2001

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: December 12, 2001







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