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  Club, The Aussie Rules
Year: 1980
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Jack Thompson, Graham Kennedy, Frank Wilson, Harold Hopkins, John Howard, Alan Cassell, Maggie Doyle, Lou Richards, Toni Gay-Shaw
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: This Australian Rules Football club has been in the doldrums recently, but they think they know how to turn their fortunes around by purchasing a new player who has covered himself in glory in Tasmania. However, when he arrives in the boardroom, Geoff Hayward (John Howard) has but one question to ask before he agrees to being signed up by them: how much money will he get? They are disgruntled by this impolite and direct enquiry, but tell him anyway, only for him to respond that it's not enough, and he will only sign for a record fee. They reason he is worth it - he must be to demand that price - but things will not go the way they want them to.

The Club was penned by one of Australia's leading playwrights, David Williamson, who had made Don's Party into a film a few years before with some of the same talents, and when this item was snapped up he wrote the screenplay himself, opening out what had been a boardroom drama into a cinematic experience. Not to say the boardroom didn't feature, it did, it's just that there were scenes set at the matches too which would not have been possible on the stage, though the political motivations behind the scenes remained the main focus. This has gone onto be one of the most beloved of Australian cult movies, but would it travel internationally?

At this remove, with sport in Australia having turned into the professional game as it had in the rest of the world, it could be there's a nostalgic appeal to seeing The Club and how things used to be, although those in the know would wonder if it really had changed so much, as after all every sport is full of people who are convinced they know better than anyone else about the game, from the fans to the managers to the players. Woe betide you should you claim that one of these experts don't know what they're talking about, and that was the tone of this, with everyone pulling in different directions thanks to the belief, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, that they should be running it all.

If that is coming across as a little dry as far as interest for the non-sport fan went, then rest assured Williamson had other fish to fry, and they were all about the pros and cons of masculinity. Coach Laurie Holden (Jack Thompson) has been with the club for decades, he used to be a player as did many of the board, and he continually butts heads with them when they team keep losing matches. Not helping, to everyone's dismay, is Hayward, who it transpires is far from worth the fortune they spent on him as he is a total weirdo who resents the entire sport and regrets ever being involved with it. This was where Williamson demonstrated his other ace up the sleeve: his sense of humour, as some of the scenes with Hayward were genuinely funny what with his antics and strange methods of amusing himself.

The bit everyone recalls was where he had a heart to heart with bluff board member Jock Riley (Frank Wilson) and opened up about his problems, which are revealed as a fondness for hash cigarettes, often before a game (true), and his sexual relations with his mother and sister that caused his father to commit suicide (er, not true), which arrived almost out of the blue, and was hilariously played by both actors. Elsewhere, things were less ridiculous in the main, though no less satirical, as for instance the nominal head of the club (legendary Aussie TV host Graham Kennedy) proves ineffectual and a liability who is forced out of his position by making him a public embarrassment thanks to an encounter with a stripper. That this ends with two characters finding common ground and showing up the less admirable characters was perhaps a shade too convenient plotwise, but The Club retained its worth and in addition was a valuable insight into the country's bloke culture. Music by Mike Brady.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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