But the cheerfully insistent four-letter dialogue defines the film as a trip for the tolerant, as does the interest in some of the more basic, rarely discussed, aspects of sex. Caesars heroes are lazy, not very bright and certainly chauvinistic; but theyre depicted with honesty and sans a hint of caricature. Their raffish misadventures, which unfold in the heat of summer, a few days before Christmas, are set alongside a gallery of colorful supporting characters whose place in the scheme of things eventually is made clear. Kev (Ben Mendelsohn) and Mick (Jeremy Sims), who live in the dreary outer suburbs of Sydney, are out of work and pretty bored. They spend most of their time watching violent cop shows on TV (the idiot box of the title) and spending whatever money they can beg, borrow or steal on beer. Kev lives with his mother (Amanda Muggleton) and Mick with his hard-working brother, Terry (Paul Gleeson). Kev has a girlfriend, Betty (Susie Porter); they seemingly never go out, but occasionally have sex on the sofa in front of the TV (Bettys derisive put-down after Kevs latest clumsy attempt to make love to her is one of the comic highlights of the film). Micks attracted to Lani (Robyn Loau), a Polynesian girl who works at the local drive-in liquor store, and, although she has a protective brother (Cramer Cain) concerned about her virginity, Lani needs little encouragement to become Micks willing sexual partner (here again, there are deliberately tasteless yet funny jokes about menstruation and oral sex). Kev and Mick decide that theyve learned enough from TV to rob a bank. Meanwhile, a pair of bank robbers in clown masks are terrorizing the neighborhood; detectives Eric (Graeme Blundell) and Loanne (Deborah Kennedy) deduce which bank the clowns will hit next the same bank, of course, that Kev and Mick plan to rob. Also involved in this comedy of errors is Colin (Stephen Rae), the local drug and gun dealer, who supplies both Luce and Kev; like Kev, Colin lives with his mother, who brings his clients biscuits and tea during business meetings while her laundry flutters incongruously on the clothesline. This is crime at its most suburban.Inevitably, all the principal characters meet at the climactic bank holdup, which satisfactorily ties up all the loose ends. Pics final scene succeeds in being both tragic and bleakly funny. Caesar has assembled an accomplished cast for this handsomely produced pic, topped by Mendelsohn, never better as the hopeless Kev, and newcomer Sims as the slightly more intelligent Mick. Loau, introduced here, makes a bold debut as the very liberated Lani, and the large supporting cast is well chosen. Joseph Pickerings widescreen camerawork uses the scope frame to telling effect, and Mark Perrys ultra-sharp editing propels the film along to an 83-minute running time that wastes not a moment. Music supervisor Christine Woodruff has packaged a vibrant batch of songs that augment the intricate, robust soundtrack by Liam Egan. Pics opening and closing credits are inventive. Seekers of film trivia should note that Chris Noonan, director of last years family hit Babe, can be glimpsed as one of the bad guys in a thriller screening on TV in an early scene.

But the cheerfully insistent four-letter dialogue defines the film as a trip for the tolerant, as does the interest in some of the more basic, rarely discussed, aspects of sex. Caesars heroes are lazy, not very bright and certainly chauvinistic; but theyre depicted with honesty and sans a hint of caricature. Their raffish misadventures, which unfold in the heat of summer, a few days before Christmas, are set alongside a gallery of colorful supporting characters whose place in the scheme of things eventually is made clear. Kev (Ben Mendelsohn) and Mick (Jeremy Sims), who live in the dreary outer suburbs of Sydney, are out of work and pretty bored. They spend most of their time watching violent cop shows on TV (the idiot box of the title) and spending whatever money they can beg, borrow or steal on beer. Kev lives with his mother (Amanda Muggleton) and Mick with his hard-working brother, Terry (Paul Gleeson). Kev has a girlfriend, Betty (Susie Porter); they seemingly never go out, but occasionally have sex on the sofa in front of the TV (Bettys derisive put-down after Kevs latest clumsy attempt to make love to her is one of the comic highlights of the film). Micks attracted to Lani (Robyn Loau), a Polynesian girl who works at the local drive-in liquor store, and, although she has a protective brother (Cramer Cain) concerned about her virginity, Lani needs little encouragement to become Micks willing sexual partner (here again, there are deliberately tasteless yet funny jokes about menstruation and oral sex). Kev and Mick decide that theyve learned enough from TV to rob a bank. Meanwhile, a pair of bank robbers in clown masks are terrorizing the neighborhood; detectives Eric (Graeme Blundell) and Loanne (Deborah Kennedy) deduce which bank the clowns will hit next the same bank, of course, that Kev and Mick plan to rob. Also involved in this comedy of errors is Colin (Stephen Rae), the local drug and gun dealer, who supplies both Luce and Kev; like Kev, Colin lives with his mother, who brings his clients biscuits and tea during business meetings while her laundry flutters incongruously on the clothesline. This is crime at its most suburban.Inevitably, all the principal characters meet at the climactic bank holdup, which satisfactorily ties up all the loose ends. Pics final scene succeeds in being both tragic and bleakly funny. Caesar has assembled an accomplished cast for this handsomely produced pic, topped by Mendelsohn, never better as the hopeless Kev, and newcomer Sims as the slightly more intelligent Mick. Loau, introduced here, makes a bold debut as the very liberated Lani, and the large supporting cast is well chosen. Joseph Pickerings widescreen camerawork uses the scope frame to telling effect, and Mark Perrys ultra-sharp editing propels the film along to an 83-minute running time that wastes not a moment. Music supervisor Christine Woodruff has packaged a vibrant batch of songs that augment the intricate, robust soundtrack by Liam Egan. Pics opening and closing credits are inventive. Seekers of film trivia should note that Chris Noonan, director of last years family hit Babe, can be glimpsed as one of the bad guys in a thriller screening on TV in an early scene.

Idiot Box

(AUSTRALIAN)

Production

A Central Park Films production, in association with the Australian Film Finance Corp., with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission, the NSW Film and TV Office. (International sales: Beyond Films, Sydney.) Produced by Glenys Rowe. Directed, written by David Caesar.

Crew

Camera (Atlab color, Panavision widescreen), Joseph Pickering; editor, Mark Perry; music supervisor, Christine Woodruff; production/costume design, Kerith Holmes; sound (Dolby Stereo Digital) , Liam Egan; associate producer, Nicki Roller; assistant directors, David Lightfoot, John Titley; casting, Shouna Wolifson. Reviewed at Village Cinema City 1, Sydney, Aug. 22, 1996. (In Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN. Kev Ben Mendelsohn Mick Jeremy Sims Jonah John Polson Lani Robyn Loau Detective Eric Graeme Blundell Detective Loanne Deborah Kennedy Colin Stephen Rae Kevs Mum Amanda Muggleton Greg Andrew S. Gilbert Luce Susan Prior Arri Cramer Cain Terry Paul Gleeson Betty Susie Porter Idiot Box is a wild ride, a fast, corrosive comedy about a couple of unemployed youths who decide to rob a bank. Artfully designed and expertly staged, this visually and aurally exciting effort is a frequently funny sophomore entry from David Caesar, whose first feature, Greenkeeping, didnt fulfill the potential of his off-the-wall documentaries. Pic should get a positive response from the youth crowd, while the artistry and wit of the filmmaker should be appreciated by just about everyone broad of mind. The laconic, grungy humor is typically Australian, which gives the film an authenticity audiences Down Under will understand and enjoy, although non-Aussie audiences may have trouble at times comprehending all the slangy dialogue.
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