Film David Strat­ton re­views 22 Jump Street and Ga­lore

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - David Strat­ton

22 Jump Street (MA15+) Wide na­tional re­lease Frank (tbc) Limited re­lease Ga­lore (MA15+) Limited re­lease

IN the midst of a sea­son of un­usu­ally dumb, crude and wit­less Hol­ly­wood come­dies, stands out as be­ing rather bet­ter than the rest. This se­quel to 21 Jump Street, which was a fea­ture film spin-off from a 1980s tele­vi­sion se­ries, is smart enough to poke fun at it­self and its charis­matic leading ac­tors, even if it can’t es­cape the lim­i­ta­tions of gut­ter lan­guage that seems to be de rigueur for this sort of film these days. It’s also a film that ac­knowl­edges that some in the au­di­ence might not have seen the orig­i­nal, so it help­fully starts with a reprise of scenes from 21, in­clud­ing — cu­ri­ously — a se­quence that wasn’t in the ear­lier film and that seems to have been in­spired by the fa­mous lob­ster-cook­ing scene in Woody Allen’s An­nie Hall.

Sch­midt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Chan­ning Ta­tum) are un­der­cover cops; in the first film they were sent to enrol as stu­dents in a high school to bust drug deal­ers. Here the plot is much the same ex­cept that the hap­less pair are sent to col­lege, where they still stand out as be­ing far too old to be le­git­i­mate stu­dents. Sch­midt is the (fairly) brainy one and Jenko is the sports­man, who soon finds him­self in the foot­ball team and get­ting pally with chief sus­pect Zook (Wy­att Rus­sell). Sch­midt, mean­while, starts get­ting up close and per­sonal with pretty Maya (Am­ber Stevens), un­aware that she’s the cher­ished daugh­ter of an over­pro­tec­tive po­lice cap­tain, Dick­son (Ice Cube).

While much of this is pretty stan­dard stuff, it’s all easy to take thanks to the en­gag­ing per­for­mances from the two leads. The screen­play con­tains quite a few funny lines (in­clud­ing a price­less ref­er­ence to Cate Blanchett), and the di­rec­tion by Phil Lord and Christo­pher Miller (who also made The Lego Movie) is crisp and ef­fi­cient. Hill and, es­pe­cially, Ta­tum are re­ally very good at this kind of broad, un­so­phis­ti­cated com­edy and they ex­tract more gen­uine laughs than you might sup­pose from the ma­te­rial.

Not to be missed are the end cred­its, which cheer­fully pre­dict fu­ture in­stal­ments of the fran­chise (in outer space, as a mar­tial arts movie and so on), in one of which Jonah Hill is re­placed by Seth Ro­gen — a prob­lem with con­tracts, we’re jok­ingly ad­vised.

a Bri­tish-Ir­ish co-pro­duc­tion di­rected by Lenny Abra­ham­son, is a very strange film in which the ti­tle char­ac­ter, played by Michael Fass­ben­der, wears a pa­pier-mache head, with painted eyes, hair and mouth, for al­most the en­tire film — in fact, if some­one other than Fass­ben­der had been play­ing the role you’d hardly be any the wiser. This is such an odd con­cept that it was fas­ci­nat­ing to dis­cover it’s based on a real char­ac­ter: Chris Sievey (who died in 2010), who was known as Frank Sidebottom and came from Manch­ester, wore just such a fake head when he starred in the Oh Blimey Big Band, and the film is ded­i­cated to him. The screen­play is based on a story by Jon Ron­son, who be­came a sub­sti­tute key­board player with the band, just as Domh­nall Glee­son’s per­plexed Jon does in the film.

There are dif­fer­ences, though. In the film, Frank is an Amer­i­can and the band goes by the un­pro­nounce­able name of Soron­prfbs. Jon, who lives in the sub­urbs of a bleak sea­side town and wants to write songs, is brought into the band by man­ager Don (Scoot McNairy) when the key­board player tries to drown him­self. The only ex­pla­na­tion for Frank’s strange be­hav­iour is that he’s men­tally ill, which is the dark side of what is other­wise quite an amus­ing com­edy about ex­per­i­men­tal mu­si­cians at­tempt­ing to find an au­di­ence for some­thing no one re­ally wants. A long se­quence takes place near an Ir­ish lake, as the group — which also in­cludes theremin player Clara (Mag­gie Gyl­len­haal), per­cus­sion­ist Nana (Carla Azar) and grumpy French bass player Baraque (Fran­cois Civil) — at­tempts to record an al­bum, and the last part of the film un­folds at a fes­ti­val in Texas.

There is no easy way to de­scribe Frank — the film or the char­ac­ter — since Abra­ham­son is con­stantly shift­ing mood and per­cep­tion to keep the au­di­ence guess­ing. While some scenes are funny in a dark kind of way (the dis­cov­ery that Frank even wears his head while tak­ing a


22 Jump Street shower), oth­ers are pretty bleak, and Abra­ham­son is skil­ful enough to jug­gle the mood from one to an­other with­out los­ing con­trol of the ma­te­rial. In the end, it’s a sad movie; you come away feel­ing enor­mous sym­pa­thy for the ec­cen­tric Frank and his friends, but also for Jon, the per­pet­ual loser. CAN­BERRA in swel­ter­ing sum­mer, with sin­is­ter black smoke from ap­proach­ing bush­fires con­stantly seen above the trees and houses of the sub­urbs, is the orig­i­nal set­ting for an Aus­tralian film about teenagers and their prob­lems. There is so much that is promis­ing about this film that its de­fi­cien­cies are all the more re­gret­table.

It’s the story of Bil­lie (Ash­leigh Cum­mings) and Laura (Lily Sul­li­van), both 17 and in­sep­a­ra­ble friends. Bil­lie lives with her sin­gle mum, Car­rie (Maya Stange), while Laura lives with her par­ents. Bil­lie is the dar­ing one, the one will­ing to ex­per­i­ment far more than her cau­tious friend; she’s sex­u­ally in­volved with Danny (Toby Wal­lace), and though not given much to guilt, she does feel bad be­cause Danny is Laura’s boyfriend. The ar­rival of Isaac (Aliki Matangi), a trou­bled young pro­tege of Car­rie, adds to the sex­ual ten­sion.

These bored kids at­tend wild par­ties, drink too much, use drugs, and head off on wild joyrides in stolen cars — it’s a recipe for dis­as­ter, and not sur­pris­ingly dis­as­ter duly ar­rives.

All of this might have pro­vided the in­gre­di­ents for a fine Aussie film, a sort of post­mod­ern, in­land Pu­berty Blues per­haps. Un­for­tu­nately writer-di­rec­tor Rhys Gra­ham, who grew up in Can­berra, has cre­ated char­ac­ters who are ut­terly un­in­ter­est­ing, with hori­zons as limited as their vo­cab­u­lar­ies. Speak­ing of which, ei­ther the sound record­ing was not up to the mark or the dic­tion of the ac­tresses was woe­ful, be­cause apart from the overused F-word, very lit­tle else that was said was de­ci­pher­able; this was not only my prob­lem, as oth­ers I spoke to also com­plained they couldn’t un­der­stand what was said. Com­pound­ing these prob­lems was the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble de­ci­sion of Gra­ham and his di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, Ste­fan Dus­cio, to shoot most scenes in gi­gan­tic, claus­tro­pho­bic close-ups, al­low­ing lit­tle in the way of a wider con­text for the viewer. It’s an­noy­ingly hand­held, too, but that sort of phony doc­u­men­tary ap­proach is, un­for­tu­nately, com­mon these days, though there are signs the trend is com­ing to an end. This has to be counted one of the weaker lo­cal ef­forts seen so far this year.

Jonah Hill, left, and Chan­ning Ta­tum man­age to keep


Laura (Lily Sul­li­van) and Bil­lie (Ash­leigh Cum­mings) in a scene from

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