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LITTLE BIT OF SOUL, A

SYNOPSIS:
Young Dr Shorkinghorn (Wenham) is on the verge of discovering the key to the ageing process and needs money to finish his work. Grace Michael (Mitchell) of the Grace Foundation could be the source of the money, but when he arrives at the estate for the weekend to discuss his work, he finds that his ex-fiancee, Kate (O’Connor), is after the same funding – with the same project. But that is the least of his problems, as he meets Grace’s husband, Godfrey Usher (Rush), the country’s Treasurer and closet Satanist. He and Kate are competing – and yet brought together – by the weird, startling antics of their hosts. It’s the weekend from hell. They get their money – but at what price?

"Once again, Peter Duncan displays his formidable imagination and gymnastic mind. In Children of the Revolution I complained that he rushed into film before getting the second half as wacky as the first. Here, I complain that he doesn’t get the first half wacky enough. I also question his direction of David Wenham’s Dick Shorkinghorn; I’ve seen Wenham give a more naturalistic and affecting performance, and that is what I would have preferred here, (nothing as heavy as his fantastic work in The Boys, mind you) instead of one that is a little bit silly. I also wish Rush had maintained his naturalistic style throughout. O’Connor did, mostly, and so did Mitchell and the formidably talented John Gaden in a supporting role. This lighthearted comedy about the fallibility in all of us would have worked a treat more if treated (not taken) more seriously, or rather, more straight – it could have been funnier and would have struck a real funny bone. Overacting, overblown antics and playing for laughs spoils it for me. What I am saying is that the approach worked against the subject. But there is much going on that’s clever, cinematic and effective: the images and looks are strong - thanks to Martin McGrath, Tony Cambell, Terry Ryan - and Nigel Westlake’s music is terrific."
Andrew L. Urban

"Original, fresh and mostly engaging, A Little Bit of Soul has Peter Duncan stamped all over it. And Peter Duncan has a great sense of the absurd - evident in this new outing, which, like Children of the Revolution, starts with a wonderfully wacky idea. The notion of incorporating the political with Satanism is so off-the-wall that it works rather brilliantly. The progression of the bizarre juxtapositioning of ideas and scenes is extremely effective - like Geoffrey Rush mopping up the bloodied bathroom after the body has been removed, with a glass of red wine in hand. The story premise is novel and intriguing; my reservations concern the eventual plot development which I found rather muddled and overworked. Also overworked are some of the performances, which if directed to play the roles straight instead of for laughs, would have been more satisfying. The wonderful absurdity of these complex characters could be better enhanced this way. Never for a moment did I believe that David Wenham nor Frances O’Connor were genius-type scientists, but that’s neither here nor there. O’Connor is the best thing in the film - she lights up and steals every scene she is in, with her natural poise and charismatic screen appeal. Geoffrey Rush is at times droll and devilish, while rather mannered; Heather Mitchell gets away with most of the business with a terrific presence. I especially like the effective use of music in this film - where at times, the lyric of the song, spells out the sentiment or message. And Nigel Westlake’s music is beautifully recorded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. A Little Bit of Soul is an entertaining romp into the absurd with characters so impossible and interesting that the ride is of the wacky wonderful kind."
Louise Keller

"It's understandable why many critics will treat the latest film by Peter Duncan (Children of the Revolution) with a certain scorn. It's not as intellectual as its predecessor, for sure, it's sillier, definitely, but it's also a lot more fun. Leave preconceptions at the door, if you please, but not your sense of humour, and allow yourself to go with it, because, basically, what you have here may not be very substantive, but it's a hoot. And that's the point. Duncan is interested in having fun with his audience, and A Little Bit of Soul does that. It's not as edgy or as cynical as Children, but it has enough bubble and froth to keep one mightily engaged throughout its running time. The film takes its time to get going, which is a problem, but the way in which Duncan so deftly satirises contemporary Australian politicians makes this a real pleasure to watch. Another part of that pleasure is watching Geoffrey Rush effortlessly glide through his portrayal of the devilish Treasurer who, in a hilarious moment, admits he knows nothing about his portfolio, and ultimately ends up Prime Minister. Rush dominates the film, but David Wenham is amusing, more so when one sees him in The Boys, and then realises what a truly remarkable actor he is. Frances O'Connor, by this time, seems to have run out of energy and doesn't quite work. The film is deliriously entertaining, something you don't get too often in Australian cinema."
Paul Fischer



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with

PETER DUNCAN

and Paul Fischer's interview with
GEOFFREY RUSH

A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL (M)
(Australia)

 

CAST: Geoffrey Rush, Frances O’Connor, David Wenham, Heather Mitchell, John Gaden

DIRECTOR: Peter Duncan

PRODUCER: Peter Duncan, Simon Martin, Martin McGrath, Peter J. Voeten

SCRIPT: Peter Duncan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin McGrath

EDITOR: Simon Martin

MUSIC: Nigel Westlake

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Campbell

COSTUMES: Terry Ryan

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 19, 1998







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