Hal Cumpston, Frederick Du Rietz, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Alan Dukes, Malcolm Kennard, Jeremy Sims, Rhys Muldoon
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… very warm, inviting and tangibly grounded in reality, making for a new high mark for modern Aussie teen drama…
There aren’t a lot of films like this. Sure, Aussie cinema has its teenaged touchstones like Puberty Blues, but stories of this sort about Australian teenagers in their element are in rather short supply. And this production’s entire impetus is predicated on how most of the truly recommendable coming-of-age comedies tend to be films from the US; we don’t really have a set-standard equivalent to that here, something that writer/producer/star Hal Cumpston has set out to change with this feature. Only time will tell if he has helped create a feature that can stand the test of time alongside American efforts like Superbad, but he sure as given it a red-hot go here.
For the time being, it’s certainly confirmed that Hal can take his place alongside Luke Sullivan (Reflections in the Dust) as far as budding young Aussie talent goes because, for a script he wrote fresh out of high school, this is remarkably impressive stuff. While some of the monologues can be a little overwritten (the only thing resembling artifice here), everything else is astoundingly natural. From the vernacular to the choice characterisation that helps build on the mostly-under-20s cast on offer (including Hal’s brothers River and Joseph) to the frequently rib-tickling one-liners, even down to the showings of tension between the middle-class kids and the upper-class ‘Stox Boys’, this gives an authentic feeling that Hal learnt a lot more from the people and environment around him in school than he did from any of the adults.
Not that Hal doesn’t show talent in the more classic aspects of the medium; there’s quite a bit of theatricality to be found here as well. Bookended by performances of James Gaddas’ Shadow Boxing, a play that Hal’s real-life father and the film’s director Jeremy Cumpston performed back in 2000, the story and its trappings are reminiscent of Aussie theatre standards like Blackrock and Ruby Moon. Or basically any play that HSC drama students will have read during class.
It may not carry the same level of despair as Blackrock or anywhere near the absurdity of Ruby Moon, even if this is essentially a stoner flick, but the same need to craft tangible reality within the story remains. And whether it’s family tensions, calling out pretence while trying to avoid echoing it, sports-fuelled rivalries, or coming to terms with one’s own identity and desires, every note this film aims for not only hits the mark, but gives it an almost-transformative quality.
Watching this film, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel some kind of reminiscence of one’s own high school days, where the biggest worries were partying, making sure you were still upright after the partying for whatever the next day had in store, and making sure you didn’t get your goon bag confiscated. It’s very warm, inviting and tangibly grounded in reality, making for a new high mark for modern Aussie teen drama, and it shows Hal Cumpston as a lively new talent with a bright future ahead of him.