Dis­tance fails to make the heart grow fonder

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Mark But­ler

MY wife is a huge fan of Bri­tish ac­tor Rob­son Green. But when she saw his in­ter­view with Andrew Den­ton last year and re­alised that in per­son he is a more un­com­pli­cated and there­fore less in­ter­est­ing fel­low than she had ex­pected, she de­cided that what she likes is his per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Tony Hill, a psy­chol­o­gist with a PhD in se­rial killers, in Wire in the Blood. So I was ea­ger to hear her re­ac­tion to Green’s role in Make or Break as an ac­coun­tant who mi­grates to Aus­tralia with his con­trol­ling and re­cently un­faith­ful Aus­tralian wife and their two chil­dren.

For me, the at­trac­tion was the pres­ence of Susie Porter ( Make or Break is a UKTV- Fox World co­pro­duc­tion, and Green is the star im­port). She first grabbed my at­ten­tion with her cameo in David Cae­sar’s Id­iot Box , which in­cludes this post- coital re­mark, de­liv­ered in the pitch- per­fect voice of a Syd­ney west­ern sub­urbs teenager: ‘‘ Is that it? I’ve had pisses longer than that.’’

Porter has held my at­ten­tion since, and she is the best thing in this odd tale writ­ten and di­rected by Mike Bullen, writer of such Bri­tish hits as Cold Feet , draw­ing on his fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ence as five- year mi­grants to Aus­tralia.

Sev­eral pow­er­ful themes — love, be­trayal and in­fer­til­ity — don’t quite gel in what is meant to be light en­ter­tain­ment. Add sib­ling ri­valry, a strange yet burly man who steps out of the shad­ows on oc­ca­sion to punch Neil ( Green) in the face; and a script stud­ded with pun­gent wisecracks, and the re­sult is nei­ther out­ra­geously funny nor deeply mov­ing.

My bride gave Green’s per­for­mance a re­laxed OK: his char­ac­ter is fea­ture­less and pas­sive ini­tially, then the com­edy be­gins to be gen­er­ated around him when he in­ter­acts with sis­ter- in- law Beth ( Porter) and her hus­band, builder Matt ( Jack Fin­sterer), whose home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches Neil and Kate ( He­len Thom­son) move into.

The com­edy ramps up as Neil at­tempts to fol­low Kate’s in­struc­tion that he have a one- night stand to bal­ance her af­fair with a fel­low teacher, the spur for their em­i­gra­tion: she is adamant that it is the only way they can hold their mar­riage to­gether. On this fan­ci­ful rock the drama founders, for lack of a be­liev­able premise. How­ever, Neil’s quest, aided by Matt and his blue- col­lar off­siders, is the ex­cuse for some snappy di­a­logue, such as: ‘‘ The prob­lem is who are you go­ing to root.’’

‘‘ Yeah, you wouldn’t want to go off half- cocked.’’

But it turns out Beth and Matt are on their sixth at­tempt at im­preg­na­tion by IVF, which draws out some deep- seated re­sent­ments be­tween Beth and Kate. And you can see where that’s head­ing, can’t you?

Odd tale: Rob­son Green and Susie Porter as a not- so- happy cou­ple

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