Tag Archives: Hoyts Distribution

Malcolm (1986, Nadia Tass)

Malcolm has strange plotting. The film runs just ninety minutes—like you don’t really believe that official ninety minute runtime and it doesn’t feel like they’re rounding up from eighty-nine either. The film’s light and it seems to be coming from the drama. There really isn’t any. There’s charm instead. Almost cuteness.

The title Malcolm is Colin Friels, a thirty-ish Autistic man (though the film never describes his diagnosis or even if anyone understands he’s got one—1986 after all) who lives alone since his mother’s died. He’s a mechanical genius with a fascination about Melbourne’s trams. He even works for the trams for a while… but off-screen. The movie opens with him getting fired for building his own one-person tram. Strapped for cash, he has to bring in a lodger. He takes the first one who comes to see the room–John Hargreaves.

At this point, Malcolm seems like it’s going to be about kindly neighborhood shop owner Beverley Phillips getting Friels to socially develop thanks to Hargreaves. It seems like it for about three minutes, which is a long time in Malcolm. But then Hargreaves brings home girlfriend Lindy Davies and she stays. Like a day after Hargreaves comes in. It isn’t clear why Hargreaves and Davies weren’t just looking for a place together. Character motivations are not writer (and cinematographer) David Parker’s strong suit. Neither is the cinematography, just to get it out of the way. Malcolm has very flat cinematography. The film’s able to get through the flat lighting and the script’s absence of characters’ ground situations because of director Tass. She’s okay with composition, but she’s great at directing her actors. Friels, Davies, and Hargreaves all turn in these fantastic performances and, along with the mood (which is the script, is the direction), make Malcolm work. Even though both Friels and Davies kind of get the story focus shaft. It instead concentrates on Hargreaves, which doesn’t make any sense because the whole point of his life being different than before is specifically because of what Friels and Davies are now doing in it.

Hargreaves is really good. He gives the best performance in the film, which he shouldn’t, but he isn’t able to transcend the script. The part isn’t good enough. The closest the movie gets to dramatics often involves Hargreaves saying something shitty about Friels behind his back and Davies giving him hell for it, leading to offscreen bonding between Hargreaves and Friels. Eventually Hargreaves has some personal growth and isn’t a dick to Friels anymore but we sure don’t get to see it. There’s the potential for character development, then there’s a jump ahead past it. Multiple times. Parker and Tass are too obvious in what they’re not addressing. They draw attention to what they’re not doing and then still manage to be too deliberate in how they showcase the gadgetry.

After Davies moves in, Friels starts making different gadgets and machines to impress Hargreaves because apparently Friels thinks he’s cool. Or something. We never find out because whenever anyone wants to have a serious talk with Friels, they do it offscreen so Parker doesn’t have to write the dialogue. After the first act, Friels basically becomes a (necessary) third wheel in Davies and Hargreaves’s story, which is mostly from Davies’s perspective because Hargreaves doesn’t do anything interesting on his own. Not even when he does things on his own; the movie can’t make them seem interesting.

Hargreaves has a scummy bar friend—an astonishingly third-billed Chris Haywood, who gets about four minutes on screen and never a close-up. Haywood’s just around for when Hargreaves needs to do something away from Friels and Davies. Until Hargreaves reaches the point he realizes he’s got to grow and then he just runs away to different areas of the house.

Another success of Tass’s direction is the lack of claustrophobia, even when there ought to be.

Whenever Friels shows Hargreaves a new gadget, it’s an action set piece. They’re really cool sequences, often involving remote controlled cars or objects. Editor Ken Sallows always cuts the action well. They’re the film’s pay-off moments and they work.

But they really shouldn’t be the film’s pay-off moments. They supersede the characters. For the finale the actors don’t even get to participate in the big action sequence.

It’s a great sequence though and when the actors do come back, they’re able to make up for the lost time goodwill-wise.

Malcolm doesn’t succeed in spite of itself, it just doesn’t aim high enough. It also adjusts its aim lower as the film goes on. Its potential deflates as it goes.

But it’s really cute, really charming, often rather funny. Excellent performances from Hargreaves, Friels, and Davies. Nice score from Simon Jeffres.

Just wish the script were more interested in the characters.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Nadia Tass; written and photographed by David Parker; edited by Ken Sallows; music by Simon Jeffes; produced by Tass and Parker; released by Hoyts Distribution.

Starring Colin Friels (Malcolm), Lindy Davies (Judith), John Hargreaves (Frank), Beverley Phillips (Mrs. T), Judith Stratford (Jenny), and Chris Haywood (Willy).


This post is part of the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Quiggy of the Midnite Drive-In.

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Crocodile Dundee (1986, Peter Faiman)

When Crocodile Dundee starts, it’s deceptively bold. For roughly the first half of the picture, Linda Kozlowski–without any previous theatrical credits on her filmography–is the protagonist. She’s not really believable as a tenacious newspaper reporter, but she works as Jane to Paul Hogan’s Tarzan. Sorry, Mick Dundee.

During that first half, when Dundee is the odd couple trekking across the Australian wilderness, Hogan is at his best. He’s playing what should be a comic role with complete seriousness. The approach endears Hogan so much he can survive the rocky second half, when the couple heads to New York for Kozlowski to show off her caveman.

Hogan’s able to survive the vague racism, bad soundtrack and mean-spirited homophobia. He’s so charming, one doesn’t even want to blame him… even though Hogan co-wrote the script.

Kozlowski, however, doesn’t do so well in the New York parts. She’s saddled with a boring boyfriend–Mark Blum is terrible–and a boring father. The father, played by Michael Lombard (who’s bad), shows up just to give the movie a couple more scenes. The writers clearly ran out of content for the New York half.

Director Faiman misuses the Panavision frame enough one has to think he was thinking about the inevitable VHS release, though there is a great tracking shot at the end of Central Park. His cinematographer, Russell Boyd, does a wonderful job, saving the visuals.

Peter Best’s score is sometimes sublime, sometimes awful.

Dundee is half a good comedy.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Faiman; screenplay by John Cornell, Paul Hogan and Ken Shadie, based on a story by Hogan; director of photography, Russell Boyd; edited by David Stiven; music by Peter Best; production designer, Graham ‘Grace’ Walker; produced by Cornell; released by Hoyts Distribution.

Starring Paul Hogan (Mick Dundee), Linda Kozlowski (Sue Charlton), John Meillon (Walter Reilly), Mark Blum (Richard Mason), David Gulpilil (Neville Bell), Michael Lombard (Sam Charlton) and Reginald VelJohnson (Gus).


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