Bran Nue Dae (Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins) : Movie Review
Stand aside High School Musical and Glee - there’s a new musical kid in town and there “is nothing he would rather be, than be an Ab-orig-ine”. The hit Australian stage musical Bran Nue Dae is finally hitting the big screen, with one of the freshest young casts you are ever likely to come across in an Australian film (Missy Higgins, Jessica Mauboy and Dan Sultan to name but a few).
Bran Nue Dae kicks off in the summer of 1969, where teenage lad Willie is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome, in the North of Western Australia – fishing, hanging out with his mates, and when he can, his girl Rosie (a very cute Jessica Mauboy). However his mother Therasa (just A mother Therasa, not THE Mother Teresa) has great hopes for him and she returns him to the religious mission in Perth for further schooling.
After being punished by Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush) for stealing a Cherry Ripe (which makes way to many apperances NOT to be considered “Product Placement”), Willie runs away from the mission. But to where? Too ashamed to go home, too afraid to go back to school, Willie heads off into the wilderness.
Along the way he meets an old fella, ‘Uncle’ Tadpole (Ernie Dingo), and together they con a couple of hippies, Annie (Missy Higgins) and Slippery (Tom Budge), into taking them on the 2,500 km journey through spectacular landscape back to Broome – all the while pursued by Father Benedictus.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ
There aren’t many opportunities for Australian film makers to take a stab at genuine genre pieces these days, in an industry so stubborn it refuses to fund movies outside of “depressing central”, so trying to watch something like Bran Nue Dae objectively is near impossible.
When it comes to Aussie films we more often than not look past the obvious flaws (like the truly terrible voice-dubbing early on in the film, some cringe-worthy 1960s Batman era “wacky” sound effects, as well as some often hap-hazard pacing and editing) in order to ensure people actually embrace an Australian film. On the other hand, we also tend to look past the positives (wonderful casting, genuinely impressive and catchy songs and a great cinematic look) just so we can make a point of how far Aussie films have to go in order to compete on the world stage.
That said, when a film like Bran Nue Dae comes along, which delivers such an infectious sense of fun and camp charm – it’s very hard to avoid. I’ve still yet to understand how anyone (let alone millions of people) can knowingly watch and enjoy shows like Glee and High School Musical… but with BND it starts to make sense:
Musicals are to some, what Crank 2 : High Voltage is to others – pure, turn your brain off at the door, joyous and pleasurable escapism.
So, in that regard, Bran Nue Dae (shot on location in Broome with an $8 Million budget – quite large by Australian film standards) is a resounding success. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s over the top and even cringe-worthy at times, but the songs are so strong and the tone so tounge-in-cheek, you can’t help but be swept up by it all.
It also helps that Missy Higgins (who isn’t going to win any acting awards any time soon, that’s for sure) has one of the most beautiful faces I’ve seen on screen since Rose Byrne showed up in Two Hands. It’s the sort of face guys see once and are mesmerised by for the next 10 years. But I digress…
The major strength here is casting – taking a swag of fresh faces (Bill Hunter, Pia Miranda and Kick Gurry are FINALLY nowhere to be seen) with an exisiting profile and talent and really exploiting every opportunity they can to let them shine.
Mauboy’s voice is nothing short of phenomenal, newcomer Rocky McKenzie is wonderfully innocent, Ernie Dingo brings a great deal of warmth (he’s heading into that “Bud Tingwell I Wish He Was My Grandpa” zone), while Dan Sultan will without doubt find a flock of new female fans (he is the indigenous Zac Efron).
Again, Bran Nue Dae isn’t perfect (the ending almost derails the film with silliness) – but it sure as hell isn’t a mess either. Girls are likely to get more out of it than the boys, but those who do latch onto it (especially Musical fans) won’t be disappointed.
As for you school kids… get ready to watch this a million times on DVD… because I have a feeling this puppy will be part of your English class curiculum for the next 25 years.
WATCH OUT FOR
How impressive Missy Higgins teeth are. Sure, it has nothing to do with the movie… but (* swoons *) what a dreamboat! Also – take a good listen to the lyrics… don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase “taking my land away” being delivered with such pep or jazz hands.
WATCH OUT FOR | RATING : 3.5 / 5