CLUBLAND
(2007)
Laura Daniels
MCC 231- Australian Cinema
Garry Gillard
16 April 2008

 

clubland
(http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200706/r153428_550431.jpg)

 

Part I:
Film Information:
clubland(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264)

Also known as: Introducing the Dwights (USA)
Genre: Mother-Son/Coming of Age
Running Time: 105min
Language: English
Certification:
Australia: MA
Canada: 14A (Ontario)
USA: R
Finland: K-13
Filming Location:  Australia
                                                                        (http://www.milanrecords.com/dwights/cover.jpg)
Principle Cast and Crew:
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/fullcredits)

Director: Cherie Nowlan
Screenwriter: Keith Thompson
Producer: Rosemary Blight
Executive Producers: Scott Garvie, Ben Grant, Jessie Mangum, Cass O’Connor, Tristan Whalley, Antonio Zeccola
Cinematography: Mark Wareham
Editor: Scott Gray
Original Music by: Martin Armiger

Cast:
Jean: Brenda Blethyn
Lana: Rebecca Gibney
Tim: Khan Chittenden
Mark: Richard Wilson
Shane: Russell Dykstra
Jill: Emma Booth
Kelly: Katie Wall
Ronnie Stubbs: Philip Quast
John: Frankie J. Holden
Tori: Tracie Sammut
Brett: Justin Martin
Colin: David Webb
Sharon: Susan Kennedy
Production Companies:                 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/companycredits)
RB Films Pty Ltd
Essential Pictures
Essential Viewing Group
Film Finance
New South Wales Film & Television Office
R.B. Films

Awards:  
(2 won, 17 nominated)
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/awards)
Won:
Australian Film Institute: Best Supporting Actress- Emma Booth
Film Critics Circle of Australia: Best Supporting Actress- Emma Booth
Nominated:
            AFI Awards:
                        Best Direction: Cherie Nowlan
                        Best Cinematography: Mark Wareham
                        Best Screenplay: Keith Thompson
                        Best Lead Actress: Brenda Blethyn
                        Best Supporting Actor: Frankie J Holden
                        Best Supporting Actor: Richard Wilson
                        Best Costume Design: Emily Seresin
                        Best Editing: Scott Gray
                        Best Production Design: Nell Hanson
                        Best Sound: Andrew Neil, Ian McLoughlin, Liam Egan, Stephen Vaughan
            FCCA Award:
                        Best Supporting Actor: Richard Wilson
            IF Award:
                        Best Actress: Brenda Blethyn

Release Dates:
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/releaseinfo)


Country

Date

USA

21 January 2007

(Sundance Film Festival)

France

16 May 2007

(Cannes Film Market)

Australia

28 June 2007

 

USA

4 July 2007

(limited)

UK

11 July 2007

(Cambridge Film Festival)

USA

3 August 2007

 

UK

21 September 2007

 

Box Office:
 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/business)

Opening Weekend:
$27,734 (USA) (8 July 2007) (4 Screens)
AUD 89,585 (Australia) (24 June 2007) (61 Screens)
Gross:
$378,921 (USA) (19 August 2007)
$376,311 (USA) (12 August 2007)
$361,066 (USA) (5 August 2007)
$329,147 (USA) (29 July 2007)
$263,040 (USA) (22 July 2007)
$43,085 (USA) (8 July 2007)
AUD 1,256,021 (Australia) (22 July 2007)
AUD 1,099,302 (Australia) (15 July 2007)
AUD 845,929 (Australia) (8 July 2007)
AUD 415,036 (Australia) (1 July 2007)
AUD 89,585 (Australia) (24 June 2007)

Interviews:
Interview with Director Cherie Nowlan, Writer Keith Thompson, and Actress Brenda Blethyn- by Margaret Pomeranz (2007)
            (http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1952236.htm)
‘This was a story that I wanted to tell. I wanted to tell a story about mothers and sons, because I think that's a - that's a particularly special relationship.’
- Keith Thompson, Screenwriter

Interview with Actors Khan Chittenden and Richard Wilson- by Sean Lynch (2007)
(http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/clubland-chittenden-wilson-interview.htm)
It was really quite scary at first, when I got the role. Because you want to do something like this right, you know, you can't look like your 'acting' with cerebral palsy, because theres so many people out there with the disease and it affects so many lives - and to not do it right would not only be offensive to them - but bad for people who see it.
-Richard Wilson, Actor- Mark

Interview with Cherie Nowlan- by Luke Buckmaster (June 2007)
            (http://www.infilm.com.au/features/cherienowlan.html)

Interview with Cherie Nowlan- By Nick Dawson (July 2007)
(http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/directorinterviews/2007/07/cherie-nowlan-introducing-dwights.php)
The film is actually about performing, but it's also about family so...
- Cherie Nowlan, Director

Interview with Brenda Blethyn and Cherie Nowlan- by Edward Douglas (July 2007)
(http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=21642)
‘It struck a few chords, and I thought it would with most people who watched it. It wasn't enhanced in anyway. I think he told it like it was and it felt honest. It felt like it might have been from experience from the screenwriter, and we since discovered that it kind of was a little bit.’
-Brenda Blethyn, Actor- Jean\

 

Journal/Newspaper Reviews:
Davidson, Rjurik
From: Nowlan, Cherie. To love more: Clubland director Cherie Nowlan [interviewed by Davidson, Rjurik.] [online]. Metro (Melbourne, Vic: 1974), no.153, June 2007: 12-17.

Byrge Duane
From ‘Clubland’.Hollywood Reporter. 15 March 2007.

Harvey, Dennis
From: Dennis Harvey. Variety. New York: Feb 5-Feb 11, 2007. Vol. 405, Iss. 12; pg. 102, 1 pgs

Price, Matthew
From ‘Introducing…Brenda Blethyn’.  The Daily Oklahoman (MCT). 1 February 2008. 

Croot, James
From ‘Getting the Big Break’.  The Press (Christchurch).  12 January 2008.

Brahman, John
            From ‘Clubland (10 out of 10)’.  Sundance Authorized.  23 January 2007.

James, Stan
            From ‘Clubland’. The Advertiser. 30 June 2007.

Roach, Vicki
            From ‘Join the Club’. The Daily Telegraph. 28 June 2007.

Byrnes, Paul
From ‘Clubland: D.H. Lawrence meets A.V. Jennings in the tribute to suburban showbiz’.  Sydney Herald. 22 June 2007.

Stein, Ruthe
From “The Dwights’ are one family you’re glad to have met’. San Francisco Chronicle.  13 July 2007.

 

Online Reviews:

Lisa Tucker- Backstage at Sundance 2007
            http://h20325.www2.hp.com/blogs/sundance/archive/2007/01/24/2303.html

Francesca Rudkin- New Zealand Herald
            http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=200&objectid=10486144
As a whole, Clubland feels awkward. There are some great scenes filled with startlingly funny and unpredictably honest moments, in particular around Tim's efforts to lose his virginity, but as the film builds to its climax it becomes histrionic. The sudden sentimental Hollywood ending sees the characters and the film lose both their honesty and quirky edge.’

Anna Smith- BBC
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2007/09/17/clubland_2007_review.shtml

Kristi Mitsuda- IndieWire
            http://www.indiewire.com/movies/2007/07/review_shrill_l.html

Erik Davis- Cinematical
            http://www.cinematical.com/2007/07/04/review-introducing-the-dwights/

O. Scott- NY Times
            http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/movies/04dwig.html

James Berardinelli- Reel Views
            http://www.reelviews.net/movies/i/introducing_dwights.html

 

Online Presence:
Official Website- http://www.clublandthefilm.com/
American Release Official Website- http://wip.warnerbros.com/introducingthedwights/main.html
IMDB- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0432264/
Rotten Tomatos: http://au.rottentomatoes.com/m/introducing_the_dwights/
Hollywood.com: http://www.hollywood.com/review/Introducing_the_Dwights/4420165
Clubland Diary by Keith Thompson: http://www.palacefilms.com.au/clubland/diary.html
Introducing the Dwights/Clubland:  http://www.ipollard.demon.co.uk/PQContinuum/Clubland.html
Production Notes: http://thecia.com.au/reviews/c/images/clubland-production-notes.rtf

 

Introducing the Dwights

Part 2: Critical Review of Film and Its Literature
Plot Synopsis:
         Clubland (2007) is a coming-of-age story about Tim (Khan Chittenden), the son of an overbearing mother, Jean (Brenda Blethyn) who nightlights as a c-list entertainer.  Having had to give up her dreams stardom to care for her brain damaged son, Mark (Richard Wilson), she is reluctant to allow Tim the independence he struggles to obtain.  When Tim meets Jill (Emma Booth), she opens his heart and helps him mature through several true-to-reality, awkward sexual encounters.  In response, Jean tries to control Tim by subtly abusing and isolating Jill from the family.  Not only does Jean feel the need to control Tim’s life, but she is fiercely overprotective of Mark.  All these issues come to a head, the night that Jean drowns her sorrows in alcohol after losing her “one big break”.  After disputes with her ex-husband, ex-lover, and finally, Tim, Jean realizes she has to accept the maturation of her son or lose him completely.  In the end, Tim marries Jill, and Jean accepts Jill as the daughter she never had.

Personal Critical Review:
         Clubland is a good coming-of-age film that cannot truly be defined as either an indie film or a classic commercial film.  The realistic awkwardness of the sexual encounters between Tim (Khan Chittenden) and Jill (Emma Booth) are brilliantly filmed and move outside the realm of a commercial coming-of-age film.  Unfortunately, the happy-go-lucky ending is too commercial compared to the blunt realism displayed earlier in the film.  The ending is abrupt and too unrealistic.
            The casting of film was well done.  Both Khan Chittenden and Emma Booth do a good job at displaying the anxieties of youth, but Brenda Blethyn steals the screen.  Her rude humor and overbearing behavior can cause the audience to cringe, but she stays true to who the character is.  The audience is supposed to dislike her at times.  Also, Richard Wilson did well as the mentally challenged brother, Mark, and gives comic relief during stressful situations. 
            Other than the fact that the film’s ending was too rushed and unrealistic, the young couple’s love is, at times, unbelievable.  The compression of time causes the audience to not connect their love.  It seems that Tim only “loves” Jill, because he is lustful. Even when he confronts his mother at the end of the film, he defies her by saying he wants to have sex with Jill constantly.  There is little display of emotional attachment between Tim and Jill which is the fault of the screenwriting more than the acting. 
            Overall, Clubland is an entertaining film with elements that branch it out of a typical commercial coming-of-age film.

Critical Uptake:
            The reviews were generally positive, but there are disputes over the negative aspects of the film.  For the most part, the critics give favorable mention to the performances of the younger actors Emma Booth and Khan Chittenden and praise the awkward coming-of-age sex scenes as truthful and realistic.  There is quite a bit of controversy over Brenda Blethyn’s performance.  Some critics say her performance “steals the film”, yet others find it a relief when they do not have to listen to her “screeching”. 
            Other criticisms relate to the lack of true “independent style”.  The happy ending in particular was disappointing to many critics.  They thought it was “too safe”.  Some say the commerciality of the end lacks the realistic, quirky nature that is present earlier in the film.  In addition, there were several complaints that the editing was too disjointed for the nature of the film.
            Despite the criticisms, there is a general consensus in the Australian film industry that Clubland is a respectable product and that the public will enjoy the film.

Circumstances of Production, Release and Box Office:
            Unlike other films, the decisions made during the pre-production, production and post-production of Clubland were not rushed to meet a deadline.  The writing of the script began in 1996, and the cast was slowly assembled over the next coming years.  In fact, Brenda Blethyn waited five years to be in production after initially agreeing to play the part of Jean.   After the script was finalized and the cast was composed, the film struggled initially to get funding because of the adult content of the script.  During its American release, the name was changed from Clubland to Introducing the Dwights because American distributers did not want audiences to get it confused with an earlier movie named Clubland (1999) which was about drinking, sex and drugs.

Prior and Subsequent Work:
Director: Cherie Nowlan
She directed several television programs in the 1990s and she has worked as a writer and as a producer.  Previous work has been: Thank God He Met Lizzie, Marking Time, Small Claims
Cinematographer: Mark Wareham
            He has worked mainly in television and prior to Clubland worked on Boytown.
Screenwriter: Keith Thompson
He has worked since the 1970’s as a television program writer and as a script editor for TV and film.  He is also a six-time (Australian Writers' Guild) AWGIE Award-winning screenwriter.
Producer: Rosemary Blight
            She has mainly been a producer for television except for three films in the 1990s.
Brenda Blethyn:
She is an English actress that has worked internationally in film and television since the 1980s.  Her more recent films was the 2005 Pride and Prejudice as Mrs. Bennet and Secrets and Lies.  She was also nominated for awards for her performances in Little Voice and Saving Grace.  She is currently in all stages of production for three new movies.
Khan Chittenden:
He has done several television episodes before Clubland and since has been in two other films (The Caterpillar Wish and West)
Richard Wilson:
He has been in several television series and at least three feature films (including starring in the Australian film 48 Shades) prior to Clubland.
Emma Booth:
After doing a little television work in the TV mini-series, Shark Net, and having a successful international modeling career, this is her first major feature film.
Frankie J. Holden:
He has worked in film and television since the 1970s.  He has been nominated for the AFI Award for Best Actor for his role in Return Home.

Australian Context and Culture and Genre:
            Clubland is an Australian film that is true to the nature of the coming-of-age genre.  With a cast and crew mainly of Australians and the plot taking place in Australia, it is hard not to see the influence of the Australian culture.  To make it even more prominent, Jean (Brenda Blethyn) struggles with an immigrant identity (an English woman who immigrated to Australia) and near the end of the film expresses vehemently her distress with not being in her homeland.  In addition, this film also deals with the struggles of mental disabilities and what it means to be a struggling performer in an Australian context. 
            Based loosely on the screenwriter’s (Keith Thompson) life, the coming-of-age of the main character, Tim (Khan Chittenden) is far more realistic than other more commercial coming-of-age films.  The non-polished sexual encounters display the gritty realism of the “first time”.  Using sex as the basis for maturing, Tim, like in other coming-of-age films, struggles for independence from his family and particularly against his overbearing mother.  In the end, Tim has transformed from a boy to a man.  He has moved out of his mother’s home and is prepared to start the next stage of his life as a married man.   

 

clubland