The Night We Called It a Day (2003)

 

PART 1: Film Information

 

Credits and Cast

 

Director:                                  Paul Goldman

Writers:                                   Peter Clifton

                                                Michael Thomas

Producers:                              Peter Clifton

                                                Nik Powell

                                                Emile Sherman

Executive Producers:  Jonathan Shteinman

                                                Michael Thomas

Cinematographer:                    Danny Ruhlmann

Production Companies:           The Night We Called It A Day. Ltd. [au]

                                                Icon Entertainment International

                                                Ocean Pictures Pty. Limited [au]

                                                Ocean Pictures [us]

Cast:                                        Dennis Hopper …. Frank Sinatra

                                                Melanie Griffith            …. Barbara Marx

                                                Portia de Rossi            …. Hilary Hunter

                                                Joel Edgerton  …. Rod Blue

                                                Rose Byrne                 …. Audrey Appleby

                                                David Hemmings          …. Mickey Rudin

                                                David Field                   …. Bob Hawke

                                                Victoria Thaine            …. Penny

                                                Stephen O’Rourke       …. Jilly Rizzo

                                                Nicholas Hope …. Phil

                                                George Vidalis …. Vinny

                                                Peter Demlakian           …. Ruby

                                                Tony Barry                  …. Ralph Blue

                                                Vincent Ball                 …. Rex Hooper

                                                Jennifer Hagan            …. Doris

 

Release Dates

 

France:                                    16 May 2003 @ Cannes Film Festival            

Australia:                                 14 August 2003

Canada:                                   3 September 2003 @ Montreal World Film Festival

Germany:                                21 September 2003 @ Filmfest Hamburg

Japan:                                     4 November 2003 @Tokyo International Film Festival

UK:                                          23 November 2003

 

Box Office – Australian figures

 

14th – 17th August 2003 (week 1) - $193,010

21st – 24th August 2003 (week 2) - $379,945

 

Awards and Nominations

 

2003-Nominated Australia Film Institute (AFI) Awards

-       Best Actress in Supporting Role – Melanie Griffith

-       Best Costume Design – Emily Seresin

-       Best Production Design – Michael Phillips

 

2003-Won Film Critics Circle of Australian Awards (FCCA)

-       Best Support Actor – David Field

 

Interviews

 

1.     Michael Michod, editor of IF Magazine, interviewed Paul Goldman on stage after a preview screening of “The Night We Called It A Day” at Valhalla Cinema in Glebe, the night before the film was released in Australia. The interview included some questions and answers of the making of the film, for more details see www.if.com/events/2003/08/07.html

 

 

 

 

2.     Peter Thompson’s Sunday review included an interview with Paul Goldman and Peter Clifton, writer, which can be found at http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_reviews/article_1357.asp

3.     SBS TV interviewed Paul Goldman about the film and also interviewed David Field in his portrayal of his character Bob Hawke in the film. The transcript can be seen at http://sbs.com.au/movieshow/interviews.php3

4.     Jim Schembri from The Age conducts a lengthy interview with Paul Goldman an can be seen at http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/15/1060588517146.html

5.     Rose Byrne was also interviewed by The Age, this interview included Rose’s journey of her acting career, see http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/17/1061059702077.html

6.   Joel Edgerton was in lreland when the film was released but agreed to answer the Gold Coast Bulletin’s question by e-mail (Kennedy, 2003)

 

Reviews

 

“The Night We Called It A Day” was widely reviewed by many editors of Australian newspapers. There is over 400 article relating to this film on the Factiva database, one particular review by Thornton, the editor of The Advertiser states his final word about the film ‘A hard day’s night’ which sums up this film in a nut shell.

 

The Factiva database had many reviews, which described the film in basically the same view, as it was a film that didn’t need a genius to work how the plot was going to be resolved. Based on fact and fiction, it was disturbing to read the negative reviews on this film because it was rated at an average of about 3 to 3.5 out of 5 in all reviews that were researched. Reviews that acknowledged the film to be “put on your must see list” and that it generated a  “smooth, funny, home grown entertainment” (Lowing, 2004).

 

Despite the fact that before the film was released, it was talked up by reviews, “it boasts a solid swathe of international names” (Matheison, 2004), however it may have been because of the small budget that it didn’t quite work out as planned, as the editor from The West Australia adds “It probably should have been a much better film, with a cast that included Melanie Griffith, Portia de Rossi, Dennis Hopper and David Hemmings” (Acott, 2004)

 

 

The website also had quite a few review, the most interesting though, was the review by Metro Magazine. Whereby it outlined the film’s production, Australian films and much more see http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m0PAM/138/110472596/p1/article.jhtml

 

Online Presence

“The Night We Called It A Day” has its own official website that is available to the audience to view the cast, read the synopsis and view the trailer. This website is only brief, and it was no use to me because other website such as Internet Movie Database was very useful in obtaining some interesting information on the film. However, the on the IMDb, the Australian box office figures were unavailable, so the search began on the World Wide Web, where there was an extensive amount of information, and it was a matter of searching through and selecting the most relevant information.

 

Methodology

 

Firstly, in researching this film, I decided to hire out the DVD and watch it intensely, although I had already viewed the film and knew what it entailed, I believe it is very important to re-watch it in case of my memory letting me down.

 

The next step was researching the Internet to see what the critics has said about the film, what sort of rating it had obtained and the overall report of the film. There was so much information on the Internet, that it took some time sorting out the good and the bad information.

 

When researching for the interviews carried out with the cast, the SBS, the NineNetwork and the Find Articles website was very useful as there were many to choose from. Also Factiva.com enabled the finding of the email interview with Joel Edgerton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART 2: Critical Review

 

Plot Summary

 

The main theme in the film is Frank Sinatra’s musical tour to Australia in 1974. The film set in this era and part of Australian history, which similarly resembles the true story of when Frank Sinatra personally toured Australia, combined with additional plots created by the writers Peter Clifton and Michael Thomas and director, Peter Goldman resulted in the factual and fictional issue that made this movie.

 

‘The Night We Called It A Day’ centers around the events of Rod Blue (Joel Edgerton), a music promoter based in Sydney, who travels to Los Angeles to convince the legendary Frank Sinatra (Dennis Hopper) that he would be a big hit in the Australian market. Frank was thoroughly convinced by Rod’s encouraging spiel and hopped on the next plane out to Australia. At this point Rob believes that this act will turn his life and business around, and in actual fact it does, in many eventful ways. It is Frank Sinatra’s offensive nature that turns Rod’s dreams upside down, with the first situation of the reporter Hilary Hunter (Portia De Rossi) being spat on by Sinatra’s bodyguards. The press has a field day with this, and then Frank gives them more to talk about when he calls them all fags and hookers and specifically calls Hilary Hunter a two dollar whore whilst at his first Australian performance.    

 

 

It is with the assistance of Rod’s most recent employee, Audrey Appleby (Rose Byrne) that keeps his dreams alive and they both team up together to work out a plan to solve their crisis with the media as the newspapers are covered with appalling headlines about Frank Sinatra’s performance. To add to their problem, 114 unions had decided to go on strike until Frank Sinatra apologises to the Australians for his offensive behaviour. Bob Hawke (David Field) led the unions on their strike and forced Sinatra and his associates to become hostages in their penthouse. They had no water, no phone lines, and no food until he apologises. Rod confronts Frank and advises him to apologise, although Rod soon finds out that there are two things Frank Sinatra never does; he never yawns in the presence of the woman he loves, and he never says he’s sorry.

 

 

 

 

Due to the friendship that were built between Franks girlfriend Barbara Marx (Melanie Griffith) and Rod and also with Audrey, he decides to do another performance whereby he publicly apologises to all Australians. Rod’s financial situation at this point begun to look a lot brighter, as he sold the tapes of Frank Sinatra’s second performance to Channel 9 for $60,000. Although, Frank was one step ahead of him, he went behind Rod’s back and told Mickey Rudin (David Hemmings) to take all the tapes that would be produced from his performance. Rod doesn’t end up with money in his pockets; but he does end up with the girl.

 

Main Character Traits

 

The plot is based on the well known historical event of when Frank Sinatra disastrously toured Australia; he realized that Australians were soft hearted unlike the Americans of which he so commonly knew of. Dennis Hopper, a true American icon, brilliantly played Sinatra and from the other end of the scale is Joel Edgerton, the character of Rod Blue, the music promoter from Australia who just couldn’t get it right. In reviewing this film, it is could be viewed that it is the different cultural backgrounds which made it difficult for Sinatra and Rod to understand each other’s attitude toward life. Sinatra had the “up yours” attitude to people who annoyed him, and Rod was the mellow, easy going type of guy, which I guess could be defined as the Australian way of life.

 

 

The stubbornness of Frank Sinatra was a conflicting issue, why he couldn’t realize what he had done was offensive is beyond comprehension from the viewers point of view. And yet when he said he would make an apology at his second performance, he still made an offensive comment toward the Australian public. The comment somehow goes unnoticed because Sinatra carries on singing and the crowd seems happy.

 

Genre

 

From the plot summary, it would obviously be noted that this film is of the drama category, as each event tends be dramatized. However, there are many sub-genres, for example, the romance between Rod and Audrey, was very much predictable in their first scene together, and slowly developed throughout the film.

 

 

There are also a lot of times where the audience has a little chuckle, I have to agree with Clint Morris who reviewed this film, it’s not as laugh out aloud funny, but it’s the mysterious cast and interesting story which makes it a great Australian film. There was also a low tone of violence that surrounded Joel Edgerton’s character; he seemed to have a black eye in quite a few scenes, which portrayed him as the not so bright music promoter.

 

This social problem film forms another type of sub-genre because of the factual content of the film that is carried out through the film. This social problem is portrayed through Sinatras inability to understand Australian culture, which lead to a national crisis.

 

Critical Uptake      

 

Reviews of “The Night We Called It A Day” have mostly been positive, James Anthony from Web Wombat said that it is ‘much better than you would think and is well worth an evening’s viewing’. An opposing view by Adrian Danks reveals the let down of the film “the most disappointing aspect of this desperately ingratiating film is that by trying to avoid alienating any potential audience, it ends up satisfying no-one”. Which is sadly true according to the box office figures.

 

This film was trying to recapture the historical moment of when Sinatra toured Australia, however for the fans of Frank Sinatra it seems to avoid and ignore much in the way of on-going historical processes and event and in turn fails to provide a sufficient understanding of what makes Sinatra fascinating. Dennis Hopper plays an intriguing portrait of Sinatra and with the music sung by Tom Burlinson it made the film very interesting but the audience gets the sense that Sinatra had no idea of the Australian people which is confusing and unlikely. This issue supports my view of the conflicting issue of Sinatra’s stubbornness to say sorry.

 

This film may also be criticised because there was many more events that occurred when Sinatra toured Australia and it wouldn’t have been possible to include all these situations in a single feature film. The film captures the main event of the tour, which some may believe that this could have been a weakness of the film because the underdeveloped aspect of portraying Australia in the 70’s as a “youthful society unwilling to kow-tow to the cultural and social imperialism of the United States” (Danks, 2003). Alternatively, Goldman’s successfully cinematography, style and costumes have made this film successful in many ways.

 

Prior to the release of the film, it was describe as the film not to be missed due to it being heavily promoted, however, when it was released, they didn’t get the box office figures they were expecting. Adam Morton from the Geelong Advertiser explains the situation of the films and others that were releases around the same time “Heavily promoter flops Take Away, The Night We Called It A Day, The Nugget and The Wannabes, barely registered financially and receiving a hammering from critics despite boasting big names”.

 

‘The Night We Called It A Day’ was the biggest flop of them all at the time “It had positive reviews but netted just $190,000 on 177 screens in its first weekend”

 

American Influence

 

In addition to the fact that Frank Sinatra held different values and beliefs than Rod Blue as they were from different backgrounds, the writers of the film included a scene that was used in the film the Godfather Part 1. The character of Bob Hawke fell asleep at Sinatra’s penthouse in Sydney while trying to come up with a speech for Frank Sinatra and his associates, he begun dreaming about lying at home in bed and then waking up with a dead kangaroo at the end of his bed under the sheets. This scene taken from the Godfather, with a kangaroo instead of a horse head was used as part of the comedy in the film, although the viewer would have had to watch to Godfather to have understood this shot.

 

Prior work of the cast/crew

 

Paul Goldman’s also directed the feature film Australian Rules, one of the films of the international year, it attracted some controversy within the media, it was a dark, interracial drama, but it was his first film and of course it was very traumatic on and off screen. Although, Goldman put together a great cast for the film ‘The Night We Called It A Day’, taking on the Australian and American actors who had been successful in their earlier roles. Joel Edgerton is well know for his role on the series ‘Secret Life Of Us’ and the feature film ‘Ned Kelly’. Rose Byrne who appeared in concurrent releases TakeAway and The Rage in Placid Lake, and is simply an excellent female supporting/love actress.

 

What makes it an Australian film?

 

This film explores the concept of Australia’s history and the culture that remains embedded in our minds, that Australians are the easy going kind of people. This film set in Sydney and outlines Australia’s national identity through Rod Blue, your typical bloke in the 70’s trying to make some money and get by in life. Rod’s friendly and happy go lucky attitude doesn’t always do him good, but when times were tough, he sold up everything he had for the one act that he thought would make him a lot of money.

 

This film portraying a factual event in Australian history that led to a national crisis in 1974, details Australia’s culture as it was then. However, it could be predicted that the people (namely the press) of Australia today, would react the same way, if not worse, if they were treated like that. And I would also be that the unions would join in as they did some 20 years ago.

 

Conclusion

 

Australian films have a relatively small budget compared to American films, in addition to this “Aussie” comedy/drama/romance film; it seemed to lack substance, which is possibly the reason why it didn’t connect with the audiences on its cinema release. The overall rating for this film was good; it captures the moment of Australia’s history with the huge supporting cast, Joel Edgerton steal the show as the true star. Since Australian films often make speed for a suitable niche market, there is room to expand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Acott, K (2004). DVD’s, The West Australian, 4 February 2004. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

Anthony J (Critic) URL – www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/dvds/nightcall.htm Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

Danks, A (2003) Nice ‘n’ Easy: Speaking Frankly about The Night We Called It A Day, www.sensesofcinema.com/content/03/28/night_we_called_day.html Accessed 25 April 2004

 

Internet Movie Database – URL – www.imdb.com. Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

Kennedy, D (2003). Edgerton calls it a day, Gold Coast Bulletin, 20 August 2003. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

Lowing, R (2004). Video & DVD, The Sun-Herald, 15 February 2004. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

Matheison, C (2004). DVD’s: ‘The Night We Called It A Day’, The Bulletin, 17 February 2004. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

Morris C (Critic) URL – www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/niteday.htm. Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

Morton, A (2003) AFI films fail to fire critics, Geelong Advertiser, 21 November 2003. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

Roach, V (2003) Audience give Aussie films the thumbs down, Sunday Mail, 24 August 2003. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

 

Thornton, P (2004). Screen Time: The Night We Called It A Day, The Advertiser, 10 February 2004. Accessed via Factiva.com, 25 April 2004.

 

URL – www.moviemarshal.com/boxaus2003. Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

URL – http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_reviews/article_1357.asp Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

URL – http://sbs.com.au/movieshow/interviews.php3 Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

URL – http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/15/1060588517146.html Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

URL – http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/17/1061059702077.html Accessed 25 April 2004.

 

URL – www.if.com/events/2003/08/07.html Accessed 25 April 2004.