Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Three Blind Mice ***1/2

Director: Matthew Newton
Cast: Ewen Leslie, Toby Schmitz, Matthew Newton
Gracie Otto, Barry Otto, Heather Mitchell, Pia Miranda
Jacki Weaver, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Alex Dimitriades

It's been more than sixty years since Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra played jolly sailors on leave in "Anchors Aweigh" and "On the Town". While their kind of sailor sang a song to score a date and wore a smile as they got back on their ship, the Australian navy officers in "Three Blind Mice" are far from that.
Perhaps, they too grew up watching those musicals and romanticized the idea of being a sailor which is why on their last night of leave on Sydney they plan to have the time of their lives.
We all know how it goes, they drink, they relief their six months of blue balls, they party and then go back to the ship.
Dean (Schmitz) is eager to see his fiancé Sally (Miranda) and have dinner with her parents (Otto and Mitchell). Loud mouthed Harry (Newton) wants to get it on with a "skanky" hooker and get his buddies into as much trouble as he can.
Sam (Leslie) on the other side, is contemplating going AWOL after being brutally tortured by higher rank officers.
The three friends will have a life defining night that results surprising because the movie doesn't just feel like one of those movies with "life defining nights".
The cultural background might have something to do with that, because it usually results more affecting to listen to non-Americans talk about their involvement in the Afghan invasion because unlike the USA's direct link, other countries' participation gives way to more political and ethical dilemmas.
It could also be out of the distinctive personalities Newton (who also wrote the screenplay) gives every character. Even a prostitute gets to deliver a hilarious, profound line in this movie.
But Newton's best work is with the three main characters.
Dean becomes someone trying to collect a debt out of life. Schmitz plays him with enough contempt to make us both like and feel bad for him.
Watching him try to behave with his future in-laws reveals someone absolutely lost, when we learn he's carrying something akin to a secret, his character reveals unexpected layers.
Sam has to endure the fact that he might never live up to what his mom (Weaver) expects him to be. On his night out he meets Emma (Otto) an outgoing waitress moved by his lack of confidence.
Otto and Leslie's chemistry is a joy to watch. They share a conversation that on lesser hands would've come out as painfully unnatural. With Sam, the movie asks about the navy's policies and how much is too much when enforcing the law.
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Newton saved the film's best character for himself. With the strange charm, and looks, of a less obnoxious and more attractive Ricky Gervais, the blond actor/writer/director establishes himself as the film's presence.
It really doesn't take much for you to figure out that this young man's involvement went beyond what we see onscreen as he's the one who moves and talks with absolute naturality, even in moments where he should be invisible.
His crassness and loudness are obvious signs of someone putting up a show to conceal something. That we never learn exactly what it is yet are enthralled by this man is just one of the many things the movie gets so right in the weirdest of ways.
The energy Newton injects into it sometimes recall an all male version of "Sex and the City"-complete with jazzy score and walks through the park at night-but within the enjoyable nature of the film there lies a profound examination of male codes of conduct and an ending that might just go and break your heart.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm still deciding on a grade for this. You're spot on about Newton's character. When he looks in the mirror that final time I'm wondering what's he hiding

Jose said...

It's an odd movie to grade that's for sure because it works in some unlikely ways and then goes and messes up things that should function better.
It's a great movie that more people should be watching though.