MED231
Australian Film

 

Assignment 2
Critical Analysis

 

Louise Sandow
30415281

Tutorial: Thursday 12:30-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(Poster: allposters.com)

 

Trailer

http://youtube.com/watch?v=8nuDYHazGa8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast

(as appears in DVD credits)

Maps

Daniel Radcliffe

Misty

Lee Cormie

Sparks

Christian Byers

Spit

James Fraser

Bandy

Jack Thompson

Lucy

Theresa Palmer

Fearless

Sullivan Stapleton

Teresa

Victoria Hill

Narrator

Max Cullen

Mrs. McAnsh

Kris McQuade

Shellback

Ralph Cotterill

Father Scully

Frank Gallacher

Watson

Paul Blackwell

Adult Misty

Max Cullen

Reverend Mother

Judi Farr

Sister Beatrice

Carmel Johnson

Sister Edna

Carole-Anne Fooks

Father

Rory Walker

Mother

Suzie Wilks

Adult Spark

Michael Normal

Adult Spit

Mike Welton

Willie

Kobe Donaldson

 

Crew

Director

Rod Hardy

Written by

Marc Rosenberg

Producer

Richard Becker

Story work

Ronald Kinnoch

Novel by

Michael Noonan

Executive Producers

Hal Gaba and Jonathon Steinman

Co-Producer

Jay Sanders

Line Producer

Barbara Gibbs

Director of Photography

David Connell

Production Designer

Leslie Binns

Editor

Danny Cooper

Music

Carlo Giacco

Sound Designer

Andrew Plain

Visual Effects Supervisor

Chris Schwarze

Costume Design

Mariot Kerr

Casting

Ann Fay/Mauran Fay and Associates

 

 

Distributor

 

Warner Independent Pictures
Roadshow Films
Becker Entertainment

Funding

 

Film Finance Corporation (FFC)

 

Soundtrack


 

Nobody Knows My Name

Written by Rick Price
Performed by Mitch Grainger
Published by EMI

There's A Light Across the Valley

Written and Performed by Hans Poulson

Published by Fable Music

Spirit in the Sky

Written and Performed by Norman Greenbaum

Published by Great Honesty Music

Friday on My Mind

Written by Vanda and Young

Performed by The Easybeats
Published by J. Albert and Son

Gypsy Queen

Written by G Quill and K Tolhurst
Performed by Country Radio

Published by Cellar Music

Boom Sha La La Lo
Written by Hans Poulsen and Bruce Woodley
Performed by Hans Poulsen
Published by Fable Music and Carlin Music Group

Open Your Heart
Written by G Wayne Thomas
Performed by Rick Price
Published by Universal

Wings of an Eagle
Written and Performed by Russel Morris
Published by Russel Morris Productions

December Boys
Written by Peter Cincotti and John Bettis
Performed by Peter Cincotti
Published N/A


Who'll Stop the Rain

Written by John C Fogerty
Performed by Creedence Clearwater
Published by Jondora Music

 

 

 

 

Release Dates

 

Australia: 9th September 2007 (Melbourne premiere)
UK: 13th September, 2007 (London premiere)
USA: 14th September 2007 (Limited release)
Philippines: 3rd October 2007
Greece: 4th October 2007
Germany: 11th October 2007
Puerto Rico: 11th October 2007
Taiwan: 17th October 2007
Brazil: 19th October 2007 (Sao Paulo International Film Festival)
Uruguay: 19th October 2007 (Festival de Cine de Montevideo)
Brazil: 2nd November 2007 (Limited release)
Mexico: 2nd November 2007
Singapore: 15th November 2007
Panama: 23rd November 2007
Japan: 24th November 2007 (Tokyo premiere)
Peru: 29th November 2007
India: 28th December 2007
Russia: 19th February 2008 (DVD premiere)
Argentina: 12th March 2008 (DVD premiere)
Finland: 4th June 2008 (DVD premiere)

 


Box Office Takings

US: $46, 474  (Yahoo Movies)
Australia: $633,328 (news.com.au)

Awards

 

Awgie Award
Feature Film – Adaptation
Winner, 2007
Marc Rosenberg

 

 

 

 

 

Interviews

 

As you would expect, there are many interviews with Daniel Radcliffe, most of which are more interested in Harry Potter than December Boys, so I’ve limited links to interviews with him that most focus on December Boys.
Unfortunately, even interviews with all the other cast and crew include a lot about working with Radcliffe and not so much about the film itself.

Ron Hardy

 

Moviehole

(http://www.moviehole.net/interviews/20070904_interview_rod_hardy.html)
“These people are part of our society, and we need to see everything, but there has to be a point to these movies too, and some hope, otherwise I can just walk down any back alley in Melbourne on any given day and see these people for free – and I might be criticised because of how simple my movie is. I’m not saying my movie has any kind of major point [to make] but it’s a search for family and a search for self and I think that’ll work for a number of people.”

Blackfilm
(http://www.blackfilm.com/20070907/features/decemberboyspress.shtml)
“And at the end of the day, family doesn't just have to be blood brothers and sisters and people like that. It should really be about trust and respect, and I think that's what the young character of Misty discovered that all of those things were suddenly welling up in him at this very young age - that he could trust and respect these people that he already knew, so his family was really there”

VTV via Youtube
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5QML0W2I_w)
“We upgraded it somewhat to bring it more into the 2000’s in a sense of it being more about teenagers than in the original book, where it was about more seven, eight, nine year olds.”

Daniel Radcliffe

 

Dark Horizons
(http://www.darkhorizons.com/news07/radcliffe2.php)
“I think Maps' driving force is, he just has an overwhelming desire to be needed by somebody. Not necessarily loved, but just to have someone in his life who really wants him there, and feels they rely on him.”

Movies Online
(http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_12913.html)
“I wouldn’t read this film as being about a Catholic message. If this film has a message, it’s very much that family doesn’t necessarily mean blood relations and it is whomever you trust and love. They make up your family.”

E! News via Youtube
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uDqpUbAP6g)
“And you thought, ‘we could all be crap in this part and no one would care because it looks so beautiful.”

Indie London
(http://www.indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/december-boys-daniel-radcliffe-interview)

MTV
(http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1569553/20070912/story.jhtml)

Theresa Palmer

 

Movies Online

(http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_12921.html)
“My ideas were that she [Lucy] was really brought up in a very dysfunctional family in a very sexually charged environment. If she is staying in this little caravan with her uncle, this tiny little caravan, you don’t really know what happens to her and I think she’s been subjected to many bad influences. I think she’s actually quite a tragic sort of character and I think that her relationship with Maps, she really gets as much out of it as what he does.”

Collider

(http://www.collider.com/entertainment/interviews/article.asp/aid/5430/tcid/1)

KTLA via Youtube
(http://youtube.com/watch?v=8Fff0pnyEDE)

Christian Byers

 

Sydney Morning Herald

June 14th 2000

 

Reviews

Print

 

New York Times
September 14th 2007

“…A coming-of-age tale so treacly it doesn’t just tug your heartstrings, it attempts to glue them to your ribs.”

TV

 

At the Movies

Aired 19th December 2007
ABC1

“…The film brings almost nothing new to the genre: the incidents depicted are unremarkable and you hardly get the impression that this was a summer that changed the lives of its four young protagonists.

A lot of talent both before and behind the camera has resulted in a pretty listless film.”

Movie Show
Aired 10th August 2007
SBS1
“It just doesn’t quite come together”

“Rod Hardy goes for the magic of realism – events as viewed through the prism of memory - but the results are seldom magical nor realistic. Instead, they’re a little bit cheesy, a little bit queasy.”

 

13 User Reviews on IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0465436/usercomments

“December Boys is, quite simply, a beautiful movie. It's beautifully written, acted, photographed and directed. It's obvious the people who made this movie have a passion for film-making.”

“Unfulfilled expectations are shared by all characters regardless of age and situation, and this is the main theme that the audience empathizes with. It is heartbreaking to see their faces light up with hope at the possibility of winning the parent lottery only to be passed on time and time again. Rude awakenings and rejection are themes that most people can relate to after hardened years, but for children to already know it intimately at such an age is what makes December Boys the thoughtful tearjerker it is”

“While the film's location and cinematography are breathtaking, there's not much else. Marc Rosenberg's script adapted from Michael Noonan's novel can't achieve enough momentum to keep it out of a monotonous set-up. The characters are such bland figures lacking any sense of depth, which unfortunately fails to give Radcliffe a role that's more challenging than being, eh, an orphan.”

62 User Reviews on Rotten Tomatoes
http://au.rottentomatoes.com/m/december_boys/

“The two halves of December Boys -- the pre-adolescent getting of wisdom and the adolescent getting of action -- never mesh.”

“The kind of film people call 'uplifting,' and while it is that much of the way, there are times when it's so over saturated with sweetness and light, it's likely to uplift more cynical viewers from their seats in the movie theatre”

 

 

 

Part II – Critical Review

Synopsis

 

December Boys is a film based on the young adult novel by Michael Noonan, originally published in 1963. It’s the story of four orphans – Maps, Misty, Spit and Sparks, collectively known as the December Boys because they share the same birth month – and a summer holiday spent away from their orphanage and in a small, seaside town.

During their stay, Misty discovers that one of the boys will be adopted by neighbouring couple, Teresa and ‘Fearless’ (named for his past as a stunt rider). While the three youngest boys battle it out to prove they are worthy of adoption, Maps declares he doesn’t want to be adopted, saying, "What's the big deal about having parents anyway?"

There are several stories working at once; Maps has his first sexual encounter with a girl named Lucy; old local, Shellback’s obsession with catching with catching a giant fish; Fearless’ past as a showman (or not); hallucinations of cartwheeling nuns, a horse that seemed to have the ability to fish from the shore and surrogate mum for the holiday, Mrs McAnsh battling cancer.

Review

 

I have to agree with most of the reviews I’ve seen and read in that the film simply contains to many plotlines and none of these are explored thoroughly enough to give the movie any depth. While I have not read the book, I can imagine that very little has been cut out. That been said, the decision to write character of Lucy into the film was a good one, especially as they were increasing the boys’ ages to meet a teenage audience. Admittedly it did add another plotline, however it was one that worked better (but still not brilliantly), particularly as a coming-of-age story. Another part that worked well was the death of Mrs McAnsh, who acted as a parental figure during the boys’ visit.

The highlight of the film was the cinematography. Filters were used to give the film an aged feel and to remind us that this is a memory, as an aged Misty narrates.
The set location of Kangaroo Island in South Australia is perfect for the film. The landscape isn’t wasted and Director of Photography, David Connell misses no opportunity in showing off the beach and its’ cliffs, some panned shots of the outback and rock formations, which even get their own story, as told by Lucy.
The acting was excellent, particularly from the younger actors, who managed to stand out from the adults.

Overall, I enjoyed viewing the film, simply for the cinematography, however I quickly became bored by the story. The film seemed very episodic instead of having a narrative arc and I think this structure was ineffective in sustaining interest. By the end of the movie, I knew that Fearless and Teresa would choose Misty to be adopted and that Misty would reject their offer for friendship because this works with the coming of age genre, however I found I really didn’t care. While the actors had done a good job, they weren’t given much of a chance to explore their characters onscreen and the realism was lost.

Analysis of Genre

 

A melodrama is traditionally defined as “a kind of drama in which the action […] was accompanied by the music, to underline or emphasise the drama: to increase the emotional response of the audience.” (Gillard, 2008)
While music plays an important part in December Boys, the most dramatic events are noticeably free of music. If anything, the lack of music heightens the drama and gives a chance for raw emotion to be shown.
This means that the film is much closer to the contemporary definition of melodrama, where the focus is on our emotional response.

Put simply, December Boys is a film about teenagers, for teenagers and by this alone, it can be considered a teenpic. However, I think one of the reasons for failure in the box office is that it hasn’t been treated like a teen pic. Apart from a bit of smoking, drinking a trying to get a glace at nude women, the film just isn’t exciting enough to capture a teenage audience. Film editor of successful Australian teenpic, Looking For Alibrandi said that a teen film “encapsulates the balance between comedy and drama. There’s a different type of pacing for those films, a slightly punchier momentary use of shots, not so lingering, tending to cut more on the line and more directly on the reaction.” (Tudball, 1999)
The problem is that December Boys simply isn’t fast paced. Perhaps the filmmakers made the film so episodic in a hope that it would appear fast paced, but it really doesn’t work. While the pace successfully gives the film its’ laid back, Australian feel, it fails to deliver as a teenpic and loses its’ audience.

I would consider coming-of-age as the main genre of December Boys. Coming-of-age can be defined as any film where the protagonist goes through a series of events to eventually having a better understand of the world and of themselves. “Understanding comes after the dropping of preconceptions, a destruction of a false sense of security, or in some way the loss of innocence.” (Harris, 2002)
Through arguments, rescues and being forced to support each other at times of hardship, the four boys learn the value of their friendship and this ultimately leads to Misty turning down Fearless and Teresa’s offer to adopt him. The realisation that their ideal having parents wasn’t really what they wanted was the message that the three youngest boys learnt during the summer – Maps had assumedly learnt this all before.
They experience death for the first time since losing their parents brought away some security and enforced the message of friendship.
Maps also loses his innocence in the most literal sense with Lucy, who then helps him to realise that he doesn’t always have to act like a parental figure, which eventually leads to Maps being more open about his feelings.

 

As an Australian Film

This film is Australian in almost every way. There’s a focus on landscape featuring the beach and the desert, which are settings that Australia is known for.
There’s a reciting of “My Country” by Dorothy Mackellar
There’s the issue of hardship, with Fearless having to give up his dream job after an accident and Mrs McAnsh falling sick.
The boys are presented as ‘larrikins,’ stealing beer and cigarettes and peeking through windows, but all of this is seen as fun and normal for boys their age.
Added to that is the constant use of Australian phrases, all said with a strong Australian slur.
In the first section of this report, I included the soundtrack listing. I did so because there was an emphasis on Australian music with songs from The Easybeats and Russel Morris. There’s also a mention of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who aren’t Australian, but are certainly similar in sound to 1960’s Australian bands (although some people mentioned that the music confused them in terms of timeline).
Overall, we are constantly reminded that this is an Australian film about Australian people doing it hard while living in Australia. I have to admit, at times it got just a little too much for me.

 

Critical Uptake of December Boys

Online reviews reflected my own view that while the film was visually outstanding, there was very little in the way of an enthralling story.
Of course, all reviews mentioned Daniel Radcliffe in relation to Harry Potter and while most people agreed that he delivered in terms of acting, many criticised the filmmakers for basing too much of the story around him. Of course, Harry Potter fans disagreed, but they’re used to Radcliffe leading a film instead of having a supporting role.
A lot of reviewers felt that the movie was sickly sweet and far too obvious in its message, particularly for such realism.
However, not everyone hated the movie. Some people described it as a much-needed antidote to the overproduced and over hyped blockbusters that are so common today. Some enjoyed the story as a coming-of-age and found the film endearing.
On average, December Boys received between two and three stars from reviewers.

 

Prior Work by Crew

Director, Rod Hardy has a long list of prior work on IMDB, dating back to 1974. However, this has all been in television. I think this may help explain why the film felt so episodic. Working in television meant that Hardy would have been experienced in creating the story arc over a thirty to sixty minute timeframe. I think found it difficult to adjust to sustaining the arc and tension for the full 105 minutes of the film.
However, his past experience has been in both local and international television series, and it is through experience and contacts that he was able to gain the interest of Daniel Radcliffe, who was the selling point for the film outside of Australia.

Screenwriter, Marc Rosenburg has had a modest amount of experience in film and had been involved in a few movies filmed in rural Australia. One film in particular, Dingo, was filmed in Meekathara, Western Australia and was nominated for several AFI awards in 1991, including one for best film. It won in the categories, Best Achievement in Sound and Best Original Musical Score, which may have had some influence on the important inclusion of Australian music, with one original song included in December Boys.

 

References

Braithwaite, Alyssa. “Quality Over Quantity” from News.com.au

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,26278,22912544-5007181,00.html

Harris, Robert. “A glossary of literary terms” from Virtual Salt
http://www.virtualsalt.com/litterms.htm