The Australians have been breaking the boundaries of filmmaking and dominating Sundance for the past couple of years. Two of my favorite films of the past two years, Mary and Max and Animal Kingdom both came through Sundance and set an unusually high bar for indie Aussie fimmakers. Maybe it’s because I went into Mad Bastards with such high expectations, maybe it was because I had absolutely no understanding of what I was about to watch, or maybe it was just the serious lack of sleep, but I walked out of the film disappointed.
- Director: Brendan Fletcher
- Actors: Dean Daley-Jones, Ngaire Pigram, Greg Tait, John Watson, Lucas Yeeda
- Producer: David Jowsey
- Cinematography By: Allan Collins
The film wasn’t all bad though. In fact there were a number of impressive qualities to it. It was beautifully shot, the colors were absolutely gorgeous, the cinematography was amazing, the faces of the actors picked were charismatic and interesting to watch — visually this film was stunning. Sadly the content didn’t live up to the presentation. The music, though fun, took over about 80% of the film and tried to cover up the fact that the story was actually quite limited. As a result it felt more like a music video with a few plot points connecting it.
I loved that the actors looked like real people, the problem was they WERE real people. I don’t know if this was entirely their fault, because I think there wasn’t much acting done. It felt like the director was trying to capture the “real life” reactions of these people’s lives, but unfortunately if the acting is not up to par, and this is a “film” not “documentary” it’s hard to follow a story because we don’t believe the characters.
This was not a documentary, but I think it may have been better presented as one. They either needed to make it a true story, hire better actors, or have a director who knows how to get performances out of non-actors. To me it felt like the scenes were highly chopped up to try and create emotions that the actors couldn’t give. They also never stayed in one place, stayed on one actor or even in one scene for more than a minute before cutting to another music montage. Maybe in an action thriller they could pull this off, but in a drama, we need to spend some time with our characters to feel anything for them.
The characters, though they physically looked the part, didn’t know how to actually BE the part and therefore there was no emotional investment. In addition to choppy scenes, the film itself was choppy and had trouble tying together in any meaningful way.
To me this was a film where the director didn’t trust that he had a good thing going. I will say that his craftsmanship was impressive enough that whenever he finishes his next film, I’ll buy a ticket. This film was not a success, but there are enough successful parts to it that I feel like he’s someone to look out for in the future with a bit more experience.