Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

The Square

Australia 2008
Directed by
Nash Edgerton
116 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Square

Synopsis: Raymond Yale (David Roberts) is in a tired marriage and having an affair with his next-door neighbour Carla (Claire Van Der Boom) herself unhappily married to tow truck driver, Smithy (Anthony Hayes). When Carla finds a bagful of money that her husband has stashed this presents them with the opportunity to change their lives. Except Smithy is a violent character and Ray devises a plan to cover their tracks.

One of the disconcerting things about Hollywood films is their ineluctable slickness – not only are the characters improbably buffed and good-looking but the narratives unfold with implausible convenience thanks to the ex machina guidance of writer and director. The best-known exceptions to this are the films of the Coen brothers and it is no great leap to bet that the Edgerton brothers are big fans of their work. The hapless Ray Yale is typologically, a close relative of William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard, the poor sod trying to get away with murder in Fargo (1996). The Coen’s Blood Simple (1984) also comes to mind while watching this film. The Edgertons, along with co-writer and co-executive producer Matthew Dabner have studied their material well and come up with a cleverly written, well-made film.

The appeal of The Square is in its resolutely, distinctively Antipodean, down-to-earth take on what is a paradigmatically American genre. Here the characters are recognizable, ordinary suburban working class Australians – Carla, the hairdresser, Ray, the project manager, Smithy, the tow truck driver – and their story has an ironically humorous mix of plans-gone-wrong and you-wouldn’t-read-about-it misadventures that makes it very easy to relate to. At least for the most part. For clever as this film is at the level of artisanship it suffers from a lack of overall guidance. There are simply too many mishaps and murders and what could have been an effective and economical tale about a simple twist of fate ends up over-embellishing its central conceit – the sobering truism that matters “oft gang awry”. As far as I could tell, for instance, the plot element towards the end of the film involving Peter Phelps’ Jake was entirely gratuitous and should have been left on the cutting room floor. The film would have benefited in both being simply shorter but more importantly in keeping its hold over the audience’s frame of understanding. When in Fargo we, via Frances McDormand, discover Peter Stormare mulching his partner it works as grisly black humour, here Ray’s confrontation with Jake does not, not least because the latter, hitherto a bloke's bloke, starts carrying on like a big girl.

If The Square misses its target somewhat, it nevertheless has much to offer. One of its clear strengths is its range of well-drawn characters and the performances from the actors. Of the most notable, Claire Van Der Boom was an excellent casting choice, perfectly embodying a combination of siren sex appeal and naive vulnerability. Anthony Hayes as her physically-intimidating husband is another character one feels is as real as they come. I was less convinced by David Roberts who starts off looking pretty morose and really does not vary much from that during the course of his disastrous odyssey. Joel Edgerton, who co-wrote from his own original story, is a strong presence as Billy, the hot-headed arsonist. His brother Nash is, of course, well experienced as a stuntman and his first outing as a feature director reflects his knowledge of the craft of film-making and the quality of the creative team he had around him. All aspects of the film are a credit in this respect although one nagging question was why, given the amount of rain, did the ground dug up by Ray on the building site not subside during the course of his purgatory?




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst