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Australia 1997
Directed by
Rob Sitch
85 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Castle

In 2010 The Castle was crowned ahead of Crocodile Dundee (1986) and Muriel’s Wedding (1994) as the film that best represented ordinary Australia. Culturally-speaking perhaps that is a bit of an embarrassment but for down-to-earth self-deprecation and as a celebration of Aussie battler spirit, The Castle deserves its award.

Although the critics of the day suggested that it was patronizing of its blue-collar characters, audiences had no such qualms and the film, which was made in 11 days for $750,000, went on to gross $10 million domestically and was sold to Miramax for another $6 million.

The film opens with a narration by then newcomer Stephen Curry (Eric Bana also made his feature film debut) as the youngest member of the Kerrigan family and goes on to tell the story of how tow-truck driver and family patriarch Darryl (Michael Caton) fought off the powers-that-be who try to compulsorily acquire their home to expand Melbourne airport.

The key to the film’s success is the clever script by director Rob Sitch and his Working Dog production company partners, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Jane Kennedy, the team behind the highly successful television series, Frontline.  The beauty of the script is that on the one hand it speaks directly to the Australian love of home ownership and our unquestioning belief that a man’s home is his castle, while on the other hand it dryly laughs at what this passion can actually mean. The Kerrigan house is built on an abandoned housing development, on a toxic landfill, beneath power lines, and next to an airport runway yet Darryl (Michael Caton) reckons he’s the luckiest man alive. And that’s not even taking account of the family’s holiday house in Bonnie Doon.

With terrifically funny characters, all brought to life with dead-pan seriousness by the strong cast, the film is peppered with some delicious lines including the classics: "Tell him he's dreamin' " and “That’s going straight into the pool room”.  Although the second half of the film does not maintain the irreverent inventiveness that makes the first half so much fun, if you haven’t seen it, do, and if you have, it’s worth seeing again for a good-hearted chuckle or two.




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