Assignment: Critical Review and Bibliography
Name: Vanessa Bhasi
Student Number: 30419349
Date: 18th April 2008
Unit Code: MED231
Unit Name: Australian Cinema
Tutor: Dr. Garry Gillard

December Boys
Decemberboysposter.jpg
“After that summer, nothing would ever be the same again.”

Part One: Film Information

Basic Information: (Overview: http://imdb.com/title/tt0465436)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Coming of Age
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Language: English
Certification: Argentina:13 / Japan:PG-12 / USA:PG-13 / Australia:PG / Singapore:NC-16 / Taiwan:PG-12 / Germany:6 / India:U / Ireland:12A / Peru:14
Filming Locations: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, Admiral's Arch, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Cape Borda, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Clayton, South Australia, Australia , Coast, South Australia, Australia , Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia, Australia , Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Kardinia Pool, Geelong, Victoria, Australia , Little Sahara, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia , Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Second Valley, South Australia, Australia , Snug Cove Road, Snug Cove, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , Snug Cove, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia , South Australian Film Corporation, Hendon, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia (studio) , Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia

Cast and Crew

Director: Rod Hardy
Writers: Michael Noonan (Novel), marc Rosenberg (Screenplay)
Producers: Richard Becker (Producer), Jay Sanders (Co-Producer), Jonathan Shteinman (Executive Producer)
Original Music: Carlo Giacco
Cinematography: David Connell
Film Editor: Dany Cooper
Production Design: Leslie Binns
Casting: Marianne Jade (Assistant)
Production Company: Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC), Becker Group, Best FX (Boom Sound), MB 2 Film & Media GmbH, South Australian Film, Village Roadshow Pictures
Distributors: Argentina Video Home, Aura Entertainment, Becker Group, Fox-Warner, Golden Village Entertainment, Roadshow Enertainment, Village Roadshow Entertainment, Warner Bros, Warner Independent Pictures.
Cast:

Daniel Radcliffe

...

Maps

Lee Cormie

...

Misty

Christian Byers

...

Sparks

James Fraser

...

Spit

Jack Thompson

...

Bandy

Teresa Palmer

...

Lucy

Sullivan Stapleton

...

Fearless

Victoria Hill

...

Teresa

Max Cullen

...

Narrator / Adult Misty

Kris McQuade

...

Mrs. McAnsh

Ralph Cotterill

...

Shellback

Frank Gallacher

...

Father Scully

Paul Blackwell

...

Watson

Judi Farr

...

Reverend Mother

Carmel Johnson

...

Sister Beatrice

Carole-Anne Fooks

...

Sister Edna

Release Dates:

Country

Date

Australia

9 September 2007

(Melbourne) (premiere)

Australia

11 September 2007

(Sydney) (premiere)

UK

13 September 2007

(London) (premiere)

UK

14 September 2007

 

USA

14 September 2007

(limited)

Australia

20 September 2007

 

Philippines

3 October 2007

 

Greece

4 October 2007

 

Germany

11 October 2007

 

Puerto Rico

11 October 2007

 

Taiwan

17 October 2007

 

Brazil

19 October 2007

(São Paulo International Film Festival)

Uruguay

19 October 2007

(Festival de Cine de Montevideo)

Brazil

2 November 2007

(limited)

Mexico

2 November 2007

 

Singapore

15 November 2007

 

Panama

23 November 2007

 

Japan

24 November 2007

(Tokyo) (premiere)

Japan

27 November 2007

(Fukuoka) (premiere)

Peru

29 November 2007

 

Japan

1 December 2007

 

India

28 December 2007

 

Russia

19 February 2008

(DVD premiere)

Argentina

12 March 2008

(DVD premiere)

Finland

4 June 2008

(DVD premiere)

Awards:
2007: Marc Rosenberg won the Awgie Award for Feature Film – Adaptation

Bibliography of Interviews:

Source: http://www.moviehole.net/interviews/20070904_interview_rod_hardy.html
Interviewee: Rod Hardy
Potion In Film: Director
Interviewer: Clint Morris
Date: 04 September 2007

Source: http://www.girl.com.au/daniel-radcliffe-december-boys-interview.htm
Interviee: Daniel Radciffe
Potion In Film: Actor
Interviewer: Paul Fischer

Bibliography of Reviews:

Source: Time Out London Issue 1934: September 12-18 2007
Reviewer: David Jenkins
Date: September 2007
Quote: “Misty overhears the plans of one couple (a daredevil stunt driver and his buxom French wife, no less) to adopt one of the boys before they leave, and so the film dutifully subverts the delicate process of adoption into a must-win struggle for maternal acceptance (sample dialogue: ‘We’ll just line ’em up and pick the best one!’).”
((http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/84605/december-boys.html))

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/december-boys/2007/09/20/1189881664455.html
Reviewer: Jim Schembri
Date: September 20, 2007
Quote: “Working from a screenplay by Marc Rosenberg and based on the novel by Michael Noonan, Australian director Rod Hardy, a veteran who has established a thriving career in the United States, sculpts a poignant, modest portrait of adolescent growing pains.”

Source: http://www.close-upfilm.com/reviews/d/december_boys.html
Reviewer: Carol Allen
Quote: “The coming of age theme and that of the formative childhood experience, which is what the story is for Misty, are both well worn movie territory, but the treatment and setting of them is refreshingly different here.”

Source: http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/reviews/december-boys.html
Reviewer: Paul Hurley
Quote: “Their adventures aren't really that adventurous, there's never a real sense of danger or edge to the plot, and too many musical montages get in the way of proceedings. It's perfectly pleasant to look at, but there are no surprises here.”

Source: http://www.channel4.com/film/reviews/film.jsp?id=162839
Reviewer: Daniel Etherington
Quote: “Despite the slightness, it's a satisfying, enjoyable film, thanks to a likeable cast and striking visuals.”

Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2007/09/10/december_boys_2007_review.shtml
Reviewer: Paul Arendt
Date: 10 September 2007
Quote: “It's all thoroughly traditional, right down to the world-weary voice-over that narrates the story in flashback, and the kooky Aussie eccentrics on the sidelines.”

Source: http://www.cinematical.com/2007/09/14/review-december-boys/
Reviewer: Nick Schager
Date: Sep 14th 2007
Quote: “The off-putting directorial attempts to shamelessly tug at the heartstrings occur so frequently that empathy for these four comrades - dubbed the "December Boys" because of their shared birthday month - is muddied by indifference wrought from insistent emotional manipulation.”

Site: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=3133
Reviewer: Ed Gonzalez
Date: August 17, 2007
Quote: “Alive with detail and beautifully performed by its young cast, the film squanders its rich sense of adolescent discovery with an undercurrent of sexism and the uninteresting ebb and flow of water-logged metaphor.”

Online Presence In Film Lit:

Source: The Internet Movie Database
Site: http://imdb.com/title/tt0465436/

Source: Rotten Tomatoes
Site: http://au.rottentomatoes.com/m/december_boys/

Source: Wikipedia
Site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_Boys

Source: MovieWeb
Site: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/17/4817/summary.php

Source: Movies Go
Site: http://movies.go.com/december-boys/d876210/drama&CMP=OTC-RY3575180518

Source: Warner Bros.
Site: http://wip.warnerbros.com/decemberboys/

Amongst many others that can be found all over the web.

Also, we can find many trailers, pictures, quote pages and fan sites etc that can be found all over the web.

Part 2: Review

Plot Synopsis:

The movie December Boys takes place in the 1960s. It is a film about four orphan boys who are sent away on a bit of a holiday as a treat for their birthday. From the beginning of the film, we can see that these four boys are each unique in their own way, with their own nicknames to denote an element of their life and personality. Yet even with all these differences, the boys share a strong friendship that undergoes the various tests put forth to them through out this movie. It is a test not only of each of them but of the friendship they share as well. These four orphans each end up having their own adventures and in the course of the film, they learn important life lessons.

The boys are sent on a holiday on the South Australian coast. One of the many challenges they encounter comes when they find out that a couple is thinking of adopting one of them. Since they have had so many encounters with parents who come to the orphanage and adopt every other boy but them, they take this very seriously and the competition begins. Three of the boys do all they can to be chosen, all expect Maps who has given up on finding parents because he has decided that everyone leaves in the end.

Another challenge that one of the boys faces, is the trials and tribulations of love and loss that Maps goes through when he has an encounter with a girl named Lucy who he later has to endure the loss of when she moves back to Darwin with her dad.

Other Reviews:

Other reviews have come up with various important points. Some negative, some positive. For example some think that it does too much to manipulate emotions. So much so that it goes over board and becomes a negative point. However, others believe that it has managed to strike the appropriate balance. The important point to take note of here is that all of this is entirely subjective and that it is essentially to do with the individual’s personal opinion.

In my research of this film, I have found quite a number of negative reviews. Each detailing various points in the long list of flaws and downfalls of this film. Although I do believe that this film deserves the chance to be looked at fairly, I can still see a number of things that could have been done better. For example, although the fact that the film is Australian is important and should not be ignored. It could have done a little bit more in terms of character rather than just showing off the beautiful scenes and landscapes of the South Australian beachside.

Personal Opinion:

The film has a lot of scenes where it tries to manipulate emotions. This is not uncommon in films but the extend that December Boys take it goes a little bit too far in my opinion. The film does a lot through  background music, great choice in angles and cinematography etc.

Situate the film in relation to the subsequent or prior work principally of the director and perhaps also the cinematographer, writer/s, lead actors and/or producer.:

Rod Hardy:

Rod Hardy had done a number of movies and tv shows before December Boys. Most of what he has done seems to be the odd episode in a number of different types of tv shows of various genres. His work seems to vary a lot in that sense. The movie itself, although it can be said to be a drama, is quite different to December Boys. His work has changed quite a bit between the two movies.

Daniel radcliffe:

Daniel Radcliffe has proved to be able to vary his acting style a little bit. Especially after his slew of Harry Potter movies, it is a refreshing change. However, the signs of his struggles with faking the Australian accent is evident throughout the movie is all too obvious when we see him swing back and forth, especially in the scene in the cave with Lucy when he is asked to sing. Still, it is a decent effort on his part and he does do well enough for the movie.

Christian Byers:

Christian Byers, who plays the role of Sparks, is an interesting one to note because although he has only done three movies, including December Boys, he has done exceptionally well in my opinion.

From the moment I got a close look at him in the movie, December Boys, he looked extremely familiar. This was because I has seen the other two movies he had been in. He starred in Opal Dream, which was the movie I had originally been planning to write my review in. His role in that film was much bigger than in December Boys but he puts no less effort in playing the part he is given. He was also in the last movie I had seen in the cinema, Hey Hey It’s Ester Blueburger in which he plays Ester’s brother, Jacob.

Christian Byers, although only given the smaller role of the four boys, does his job very well and together with James Fraser, who plays Spit. They do well in playing the part of the two boys who are often seen running along the beach together playing games and laughing.

Use the film to estimate what its uptake and current place on contemporary critical and market horizons tells you of the general position of Australian film and its value.:

A lot can be said about where this film stands in comparison to the films from the rest of the world. It is most certainly an Australian film, and as one it has become one of the more popular ones compared to the films of our past. It has done a lot to earn its place amongst the world’s films but one can not tell just how much we can attribute that to the fact that it is an Australian film. This is because one of the lead actors in the film, isn’t Australian at all. Daniel Radcliffe, because of his fame would bring a lot of attention to this film. Attention that it otherwise would not have. It is difficult to tell if the film would have ended up being quite as successful as it has become without him. For all we know it might have gone unnoticed and not gain the consideration it got. This is why we can not ignore that fact as a contributing factor in this film’s popularity.

Situate the film in relation to Australian cinema as a particular type of film and as belonging to a genre or genres.:

 The film itself is set in Australia and it has many of the iconic Australian features that we would expect to find in any Australian film. Features such as the drives through the ‘outbacks’, immense cliffs and beautiful beach and sea etc help to make this film uniquely Australian. The vast landscapes, cliffs, beach, and the rolling hills together with the well chosen digetic and non-digetic elements help to put this film in the right setting and time period as well as to identify it as being an Australian film.

As for its genre, December Boys is seen mostly as a drama but can also be said to be a coming of age film as we can track their journeys and the lessons they learn on their way to adulthood.

Changes In The Book:

Since this section is about the literary aspects of the film as well, I think it would be necessary to go through some of the changes made to the book for the sake of the film. Especially since there are a large number of changes.

For example, the entire setting had been changed, although the fact that it is set in Australia never changed. In the book, it is set in the east coast of Australia in the 1930s, right after the great depression and before world was II. While in the film, it is shot in Kangaroo Island and set on an unspecified part of Australia that some have assumed to simply be South Australia. Also, it is set 30 years later, in the 1960s.

One of the biggest changes to take note of is that in the film, we have the four boys, Misty, Maps, Sparks and Spit, with the story told from Misty’s point of view, while in the book it’s five boys, Spark, Maps, Misty, Fido and Choker, with Choker being the narrator.

Also, even the traits of each of these characters are different in both the film and the book. For example, Maps, played by Daniel Radcliffe, is quite a bit older than the other boys while in the book he is described as being “the sharpest in looks and ways” but there is no mention at all of him being significantly older than the other boys.

Another major change from the book to the film is Lucy. She appears in the film as the love interest of Maps and the cause of an additional predicament to overcome, while in the book, there is neither a mention of any such character, nor anyone that resembles her. Also, none of the events that is associated with her in the film ever happens in the book.

There are also many minor changes that I personally can not see the point of. These are mostly changes to the names of things and places. For example, in the film the orphanage that the boys are from is called St. Gregory’s while in the book it was St. Roderick’s, also the motorbike we see in the film is called the Triumph while in the book it was the Red Indian.

Another point that doesn’t seem like there was much of a point to is the difference in the horse. In the book there is a mention of Socrates as being a grey horse who kills fish in order to feed a family wild cats, while in the film, he is a black stallion who is rumoured to do the same but is never seen actually doing any of it. There is also no sceen containing cats, though that is not important.

The fact is that this overly literal element doesn’t seem to have much of a point other than to add an element of mystical mystery to the place. Though this is already done with Henry, the giant fish so in my opinion, there isn’t much of a purpose for the inclusion of this animal to the film. Still, it does add to the beauty of the film, as any majestic creature would.

Still, these are just a few of the changes made when the book was adapted to become a film. Though, despite all these changes, the film has still managed to work quite well with all these elements combined.