The Club / Don's Party / FJ Holden
REVIEWED BY: Kami Posted on 03/06/2009
With two Bruce Beresford directed, David Williamson penned classics The Club and Don’s Party plus the unheralded and under appreciated The FJ Holden this triple DVD pack covers just about everything you consider Aussie, in fact you’d be hard pressed to think of anything they missed with Aussie Rules footy, politics, shagging, parties, boozing and cars all there. Yep, I think that about covers it. Yeah, yeah, I know some of you would like that other footy code mentioned but hell, there’s a pokies club in there too so be happy.
Beresford’s The Club (1980) is a scathing but humourous look at the behind the scenes shenanigans of a once successful football club who wants desperately to win another premiership. Filmed at the hallowed grounds of Collingwood and including players of the time like Rene Kink, Ronnie Wearmouth and Peter Daicos and starring Jack Thompson as the coach Laurie Holden, Graham Kennedy as club president Ted Parker and a very young John Howard as the gun recruit Geoff Hayward this movie was made as the game itself was teetering on the brink of professionalism versus tradition and looking back you have to say that writer David Williamson was pretty damn astute. Big business was just about to move in and the notions of loyalty, history and tradition have since been screwed, skewered and twisted to suit the times.
Ted Parker is a self made businessman who loves the prestige of being president of the club he’s loved since he was a kid, Coach Laurie Holden is a legend of the club who just can’t get that elusive premiership and is on his last chance and young Geoff Hayward, the kid from Tasmania is the highest paid recruit in the league’s history and struggling with the pressures it brings. There’s backstabbing, arguments, some great old school football footage, Lou Richards, Malcolm Fraser even pops up! Then there’s the old men who don’t want to give up their place in history and are willing to do anything to maintain that position and the up and coming football administrators who can see the dollars to be made. And having been involved on a local level with footy I can truthfully say that Williamson has got a lot of the backroom backstabbing politics right. Still funny, still relevant but definitely a nostalgic trip too to the days of the VFL and local club loyalty.
"this triple DVD pack covers just about everything you consider Aussie, in fact you’d be hard pressed to think of anything they missed with Aussie Rules footy, politics, shagging, parties, boozing and cars all there"
Don’s Party (1976) was Bruce Beresford’s first David Williamson penned production. The story of a party thrown on the night of the 1969 general election when Gough Whitlam was expected to finally sweep into power and break twenty years of Liberal/conservative rule this movie is a snapshot of late 60s/early 70s ideals and tensions with a literal who’s who of Australian film – Graeme Blundell (playing completely against the sex symbol image as a very conservative pipe smoking, safari suit wearing accountant!), Ray Barrett, Harold Hopkins, Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves, Jeannie Drynan plus familiar faces, Candy Raymond, Veronica Lang and Kit Taylor. As the party rolls along we are confronted with the sexual tensions of a supposedly liberal society versus the conservative norms, the sheer belligerence of mateship versus reality as relationships are tested, drinking is done, philosophies are spouted, people are belittled and the great Labour victory fails to occur. And this is a film really about failure. The failure of the main characters to ever actually do anything but talk about how to change the world, their failed relationships, their failure to grasp the personal politics of life while still holding court on all that is wrong with the world around them but refusing to acknowledge that they themselves have done nothing to change it. The scene where the women sit in the lounge room and belittle their menfolk while discussing babes, fidelity, sex and penis size says more than anything the drunken philosophers try to cover.
Williamson has cast his eye over his peers, the university educated teachers, the professors, the professionals, the lawyers, - the educated working/middle class who were going to change things, bring a new social order to a strictly conservative Australia and realised that all they wanted was (a) to get laid and (b) climb the ladder themselves. Still relevant, still funny, still happening.
The FJ Holden (1977) directed by Mike Thornhill was the real revelation in this triple pack. While the other movies essentially covered Australia’s middle class ideals and mores, this film tackles the real working class life of mid to late 70s Sydney and Australia. Our heroes (?) Kevin (Paul Couzens) and Bob (Carl Stever) are just a couple of your typical young blokes, cruising in Kev’s FJ Holden, eyeing off girls, dodging the law, drinking and waiting for something to happen. Kev works at the local wreckers and when he meets Anne (Eva Dickinson) at the local watering hole it seems like he may have found himself a girl. Oddly enough though Bob gets her first then Kev. Soon though it’s the boy meets girl story and they do the right stuff - meet each other’s families and go out to dinner and drink and drag race and all the stuff teen kids do (or did). Really nothing major happens, there are no shocking moments, no revelations, no turning points that will change their lives, just the squalid truth of a life where your car, your mates and your girl are the important things and usually in that order as Anne soon works out. Kevin works, drives, drinks, parties hard, has lunch with his old man at the club, goes to the drag races, cruises the Bankstown Mall with Bob, just the day to day of life in the outer suburbs.
Where David Williamson and others are quite witty with their digs at middle class lives they fail to really capture what its like to be working class. This film doesn’t glorify the working class life and it doesn’t go the route of trying to make them look stupid and drug fucked; instead Thornhill has presented a snapshot in almost documentary style of what it’s like to live that life, no messages, no underlying ideals just a blunt and plain truth. Most of the actors in this film, including Couzens and Stever, never went any further. Dickinson did some TV but that was all. In fact only one actress could really be said to have continued and that was Sigrid Thornton. Yes, this is her movie debut! What you get essentially is reality tv before it existed. A great film and an honest and true look at what life in the 70s was like. The final scenes of Kev and Bob sitting on the boot of the FJ talking and drinking are so natural that I had flashbacks! It may not be pretty but it’s the truth. A criminally underrated film.
DIRECTOR(S): Various | COUNTRY: Australia | YEAR 1980 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Umbrella Entertainment | RUNNING TIME: 285 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: Various | REGION: 0 | DISCS: 3
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