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MAN WHO SUED GOD, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Divorced lawyer turned fisherman-dropout Steve Myers (Billy Connolly) turns to the courts when his fishing boat and home is destroyed by lightning – but it’s not the insurance company he sues, who blame the act on God, but God him/herself. Steve’s novel case is met with derision by his ex wife Jules (Wendy Hughes) and her new partner Les (Blair Venn), who actually guaranteed the loan for the boat. the churches aren’t going to take this lying down, and wheel in gun lawyer Gerry Ryan (Bille Brown). It also attracts the attention of the media. But at least here he has an ally – other than his dog and daughter Rebecca (Emily Browning) - in the shape of disgruntled journalist Anna Redmond (Judy Davis).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Satisfyingly layered and filled with detail that completes characters, The Man Who Sued God is not only funny but poignant and true as well, giving it more ballast than we’re used to in Australian comedy. Don Watson’s script provides rounded characters who are tangible for being a mess of contradictions and these characters are brilliantly portrayed by a well chosen cast, led by the towering talents of Billy Connolly and Judy Davis. Both stars go the whole hog here; there’s no discounting for the comedy. Connolly’s Steve Myers is a foul mouthed, ill tempered and combustible hero, whose redeeming qualities are all the more valuable for being clouded. His attachment to his daughter, for example, is simply but powerfully portrayed and strikes a real chord. Judy Davis is in top form and creates a credibly and appealingly brittle yet tender Anna Redmond, also complicated by demons of her own. The supporting cast is solid (if occasionally hammy), and the pictures are magnificent, thanks to Peter James. There’s only one moment of excess – but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Anyway, it’s redeemed by humour. Engaging, funny and genuinely entertaining, The Man Who Sued God has a strong case. I particularly appreciate the well observed (if underplayed) detail of the impact of media attention on a fairly average person, and how the magnifying effect can make unintended liars out of even the most respectable journalist, simply by the loss of context in the reporting. But the film’s real focus is its own comedic concept, juggled with a certain amount of philosophical roguery, which questions the notion of Acts of God as a defence against insurance claims. Within four weeks during September – October 2001, Australians have been given a chance to vent their spleen in the cinema at some of their most despised targets: The Bank started it, and was followed by Let’s Get Skase; and now, the insurance companies. Lawyers next?

Review by Louise Keller:
A delicious concept, executed with such panache, The Man Who Sued God is a witty, uplifting satire guaranteed to delight. From its carefully judged script with its crisp dialogue and splendid performances to the marvellous cinematography and varied music soundtrack, this is indeed a special film, with just the right touch of humour, drama and pathos. Bringing out the fighting spirit in all of us, this is a David and Goliath story, a romance and a juicy satire on religion. All good comedies are serious business and everything is played straight; the humour is intelligent, clever and underplayed. There may not be huge belly laughs; the rewards are much finer and much of the humour evokes from everyday situation to which everyone can relate. You know, that last straw when the parking ticket is issued after the disastrous meeting, when the bed whose mattress springs shut at the wrong moment and the door that you need to leave by is locked… it's the recognition for the wobblies that life throws at us, that endears us to the characters. Billy Connolly is simply wonderful as Steve, the hot head who is a better lawyer than a fisherman, but a much happier fisherman. Connolly is so likeable – he never oversteps the mark, keeping his performance totally within bounds of credibility. Judy Davis has long been my favourite Australian actress, and here she is in her element – always a force to be reckoned with. Connolly and Davis light up the screen together: there is genuine magic in their scenes together. Colin Friels is a welcome cast addition as Connolly's screen brother, and Jack Friels (son of Colin and Judy) also gets a credit in a small cameo. All the cast works well, and it's a pleasure to see talent like Bille Brown and Wendy Hughes involved. While it's a universal story that could be told anywhere, Sydney's cityscape and the picturesque, sleepy fishing town of Bermagui looks splendid. The resolution is both clever and satisfying – I loved every minute. Don't miss The Man Who Sued God – it's divine!

Review by David Edwards:
Finally – an Australian film that’s not afraid to take on the really big issues. The Man Who Sued God delves into that most impolitic dinner party topic – religion. And insurance companies. And journalism. In fact, this is thematically one of the most ambitious Australian films ever. The problem is that its scope is so broad, its script can’t hope to do all the issues justice. But that’s not such a problem with the irrepressible Billy Connolly on hand to provide plenty of good-natured humour. It’s a credit to director Mark Joffe that the film is so good-humoured. In other hands, it could easily have become another bitter tract; but (a few moments of bile notwithstanding) this is a remarkably even-handed film. The script stretches things a bit towards the end, and its portrayals aren’t always 100% accurate, but The Man Who Sued God is mostly a very likeable diversion. Connolly is his usual engaging self as Steve, playing up the larrikin aspects of the character to full effect. Judy Davis, having worked with the best (like Woody Allen), displays her trademark impeccable timing, even though her character becomes a little lost in the latter stages. John Howard takes his patented Seachange persona to another level as the smarmy insurance company boss; Bille Brown is magnificent as usual; while Colin Friels does a bang-up Scots accent as Steve’s doubting brother. While it’s not as stylish as Risk or as pacy as The Bank, The Man Who Sued God is nonetheless an entertaining and occasionally thoughtful Australian film.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
MARK JOFFE

Watch theTRAILER

MAN WHO SUED GOD, THE (M)
(Aust)

CAST: Billy Connolly, Judy Davis, Colin Friels, Wendy Hughes, John Howard, Bille Brown, Steve Jacobs, Blair Venn, Vincent Ball, Frank Whitten, Peter Whitford, Linal Haft

DIRECTOR: Mark Joffe

PRODUCER: Ben Gannon

SCRIPT: Don Watson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter James ACS ASC

EDITOR: Peter Barton

MUSIC: David Bridie

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Luigi Pittorino

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: April 17, 2002







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