Running Time: 109 minutes.
Rated: MA 15+ (strong sexual references, moderate coarse language).
Jean Dwight (Blethyn) is trying to make a comeback on the club comedy circuit. Her ex-husband John is also trying to revive his showbiz career on the country music scene, 30 years after his three weeks at number one in 1975. With parents like this and a disabled brother, it is hardly surprising life's not always easy for 21 year-old Tim (Chittenden) who's shy, lives at home and is a disaster with women.
When the beautiful and feisty Jill (Booth) walks into his life things seem to be looking up - except of course Jean Dwight is not the kind of woman to give up her son without a fight. As these two strong women battle over the man they love, questions of family loyalty, the mother-son bond and the power of first love enter the fray.
There are three major problems with this new Australian comedy. For us to care about Jean we have to like her. Her stage routine is so crude and sexually insulting that her theatrical persona pushes us away. At home she is a loving and protective mother. A little too much so. There is something Oedipal about her devotion to her sons. More distance.
Secondly, the loss of a boy's virginity is not new territory for a contemporary film, and placing it in an Australian context within a dysfunctional family doesn't make it more interesting. There are just far too many scenes of Tim and Jill attempting to have premarital sex.
Thirdly, there is Mark (Wilson) the mentally and physically disabled brother who is meant to help us understand his mother, and be the conscience of his brother. Richard Wilson's verbal skills, however, are so far superior to his physical disabilities and ticks, that his Mark is unbelievable on every level. This is not his fault. Director Cherie Nowland should have fixed this up.
So, by the end of Clubland we couldn't care less about Jean's desperation or Tim's love life or John's comeback. They deserve what each of them gets.
The promotion for this film tells me that, "Clubland will have you laughing, crying and running home to hug your family.' I must be getting very cranky because all this film did for me was make me cringe.
Palace Out June 28
Fr Richard Leonard is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.