TEESH AND TRUDE
Teesh (Susie Porter), an unemployed single mother in her twenties, shares a flat with an older, divorced friend, Trude (Linda Cropper). Teesh is starting to crack under the strain of taking care of her son Kenny (Mason Richardson) and her problems only get worse when her abusive father (Bill McClusky), who’s just been released from prison, visits. Trude is also having problems with her macho boyfriend Rod (Peter Phelps), who must complete a major paving contract at the shopping mall to save his ailing construction company. Meanwhile, Trude pines after her own children, who are apparently living with their father in a different state.
Review by Jake Wilson:
This may not be the worst local film of the year, but at 93 minutes it still seems to last forever. An artificially plotted yet largely static comedy-drama, it’s shot on digital video and set mainly in and around a cramped, dingy flat, where a couple of scrubbers from central casting (bottle-blonde Suzie Porter and matronly Linda Cropper) pop tranquilizers, bicker, and watch daytime TV. The observation of life on the margins rarely feels first-hand or fresh: with presumably unconscious snobbery, the script tends to associate universal facts of life with the working class in particular, as if wealthier mums never used tampons or had their kids wet the bed.
In recent Australian cinema, Vincent Giarrusso’s Mallboy covered similar ground with far more empathy, poetry and wit. Director Melanie Rodriga makes dutiful attempts to lyricise everyday life, but the montage sequences of hands laying bricks or a boy running round a shopping centre are half-hearted at best. It doesn’t help that alterno-pop songs are ladled onto the soundtrack as signifiers of a moody hipness wholly removed from the characters and their sensibility.
Many scenes play out like dramatic exercises giving actors a license to indulge themselves – strutting like a turkey in flannelette, Peter Phelps is the worst offender, but Linda Cropper also goes overboard in her big moments without adding much depth to an underwritten role. Susie Porter does better, maintaining her natural charisma despite studiously unflattering clothes and styling: in a theatrical monologue about sex with her boyfriend Les, she brings a touching delicacy and conviction to the phony material, as she praises the gentleness of a partner who’s ‘never worked with his hands.’ With an implausible line like that you can hear the filmmakers congratulating themselves on their sensitive insight, but you also get a sense of the blinkered worldview that equates class status with emotional wisdom and stability. When Trude’s relatively well-off ex-husband arrives in these lower depths, he’s treated as an index of normality, a visitor from a higher dimension; a sharper and more even-handed chronicler of class differences (like Mike Leigh) would never have made that mistake.
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TEESH AND TRUDE (M15+)
CAST: Susie Porter, Linda Cropper, Peter Phelps, Jacob Allan, Bill McCluskey, Mason Richardson, Igor Sas,Kezmir Sas, Francoise Sas
PRODUCER: Melissa Hasluck
DIRECTOR: Melanie Rodriga
SCRIPT: Vanessa Lomma (play by Wilson McCaskill)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rob Bygott, Dale McCready
EDITOR: Merlin Cornish
MUSIC: Tim Count, Keith Van Geyzel
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lawrie Cullen-Tait
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Cecil B. Deux Mels
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Perth: March 6, 2003; Melbourne: March 27, 2003; Sydney: September 18, 2003