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jack finsterer

Review: Kenny and more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Kenny posterFilms like Kenny are usu­ally called “mock­u­ment­ar­ies” for two reas­ons: they appear to be doc­u­ment­ar­ies but they’re not really and (in films like Spinal Tap and TV’s “The Office”) they usu­ally “mock” their sub­jects. This is different.

In a delight­ful first fea­ture by the Jacobson Brothers, porta-loo plumb­er Kenny Smyth is a par­agon of a man: he loves his fam­ily; takes pride in his job; and finds the bright side of situ­ations that would force most of us to jump head first in to a bath of deoder­ant. The film fol­lows our hero (played to per­fec­tion by Shane Jacobson) through a few weeks of an event-filled Melbourne spring, cul­min­at­ing in the big one: over 125,000 people at the Melbourne Cup. While he per­forms his (lit­er­ally) thank­less tasks, Kenny stoic­ally puts up with an unre­li­able ex-wife, a co-worker with diarrhoea (of the verbal kind) and a fath­er who is one of the great screen mon­sters of all time (played with an admir­able absence of van­ity by the real Jacobson pere, Ronald).

Kenny is a philosopher-plumber, a bard of the bath­room, and has that mas­tery of the ver­nacu­lar that Australians seem to excel at: “Mate, there’s a smell in here that will out­last reli­gion!” is my favour­ite but there’s plenty more.

Kenny is my num­ber one film of the year and the fun­ni­est Australian pic­ture since The Castle. Highly recom­men­ded to any­one who has ever taken a dump (or had a Henry-Pissinger).

Kokoda poster2006 is the Year Of The Veteran and fol­low­ing Clint Eastwood’s out­stand­ing Flags of Our Fathers we now have an Australian salute to the men who served in the Pacific in WWII. Kokoda is the story of the Australians in Papua New Guinea in 1942, when they really were the last line of defence between the Japanese and the main­land and it is a tre­mend­ous example of effi­cient and atmo­spher­ic story-telling.

The film bene­fits from a lack of famil­i­ar faces as unne­ces­sary star power does­n’t get between us and the char­ac­ters, though lead Jack Finsterer has a bit of the young Mel Gibson about him. I’m not con­vinced that every Australian sol­dier in the Pacific had NIDA cheekbones and gym-bunny pecs but that’s a minor quibble for a film that con­vin­cingly hits so many oth­er marks. Even more remark­ably, the film was made over a two year peri­od by a group of 2004-vintage gradu­ates of the Australian Film, TV and Radio School but it would be a great achieve­ment by any­one, even a grizzled old vet­er­an like Eastwood.

A Good Year posterFinally, Ridley Scott re-unites with Strathmore’s finest, Russell Crowe, for A Good Year, a bosom-obsessed throwaway about a self-involved fin­an­cial trader who inher­its a broken-down château and vine­yard owned by his Uncle (Albert Finney). All involved seem to have spent the entire pro­ject with one eye on knocking-off time and why not if you’re sur­roun­ded by red wine in Provence in Summer? Australian one-hit-wonder Abby Abbie Cornish plays a beau­ti­ful Californian wine-expert who may be Uncle Henry’s ille­git­im­ate … sorry, I’ve lost you, haven’t I? A Good Year is about three months too long but it’s a Russell Crowe film and, by defin­i­tion, they have to be epic these days no mat­ter how slender the idea.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 15 November, 2006.

Update: Abbie Cornish spelling corrected.