This low-budgeter about 21-year-old women who inhabit the inner suburbs of Sydney succeeds as a seemingly accurate and all-too-realistic depiction of rather depressing lifestyles. Writer-director Brad Hayward received no formal training in the film industry and obtained no government funding support for his first feature. However, his rough cut impressed execs of the Village Roadshow company, who provided the cash for post-production, including the addition of a potent musical soundtrack. Given a big promo push, pic opened to decent B.O. locally in late November.
Hayward attended Australia’s Film, TV and Radio School, but not as a student — he worked in the school library and snuck into the back row of the occasional seminar. He subsequently made a short, “The Spider,” an homage to Luis Bunuel.
Story’s central focus is Min (Sara Browne), a plain Jane going through a bad time. She worries about her weight, her dad’s having surgery, she’s broken up with her boyfriend and moved out of the house they shared, and she’s lost her job. Her best friend, Jaz (Astrid Grant), who isn’t entirely satisfied with her boyfriend, Stanley (Michael Walker), suggests Min take a vacant room in the house rented by David (Nicholas Bishop), a New Ager who’s also getting over a broken relationship. This sounds OK, but Min soon discovers that David is not only a snooty intellectual, he’s also “getting over” his broken romance by inviting a different woman to bed each night. Every day, Min is confronted by a nubile teenager eating her muesli.
Jaz keeps complaining to Min about Stanley’s lack of sexual prowess, so she’s surprised when Stanley confides in her with similar complaints about Jaz. When Jaz discovers Min has been talking to Stanley, she angrily dumps her friend — and Min and Stanley start seeing each other.
Simple storyline is just a peg on which to hang a fairly detailed exploration of the lifestyles of Min and her friends, who also include Claire (Lisa Denmeade), Alex (Michelle Fillery) and Soph (Belinda Hoare). Group’s idea of a great time is watching “Melrose Place” while eating pizzas, and the inanity of their usually sexual chatter and lack of interest in politics or the outside world eventually becomes somewhat depressing.
Despite their seeming limitations, however, the characters emerge as warm and likable, and Hayward handles the unsophisticated material with a down-to-earth realism and more than a touch of humor. He also keeps the film’s scale modest, avoiding picture postcard locations in favor of inner-city side streets, small houses and cafes.
Browne, in her first film, impresses strongly as Min, a distinctive protag in that she’s on the homely side and lacks social graces. Grant is very effective, too, as the mercurial Jaz.
“Occasional Coarse Language” is a bit stiffly handled at times, there are a couple of strident performances among the supporting players, the jagged editing style is dubious, and the occasional gimmick of extrapolating computerlike readouts detailing the careers of real-life characters is an irritatingly extraneous device. However, this likable film generally succeeds in achieving its modest goals.