Film Commentary [4-10-00]
Australian farce - - The Castle
Genre: Comedy
Grade = A


The Castle poster Dale (Stephen Curry) narrates the film, first stating, “I’m Dale Kerrigan, and this is my story.” Well, it isn’t. It is in fact the story of his father, Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton). Darryl is an upbeat salt-of-the-earth working class Australian. He is a tow truck driver and is the proud husband and father of four children.

The eldest son, Wayne (Wayne Hope), is in prison for 8 years for armed robbery. He is a good lad, but got in with a bad crowd.

Middle son Steve (Anthony Simcoe) is constantly reading The Trading Post hunting for good deals and trades. “Hey dad, four ergonomic chairs for sale,” he boasts. “How much do they want for them,” queries Dad. “One fifty.” “They’re dreamin’,” scoffs Dad. This scene is repeated throughout the film to more and more ridiculous items. Steve is also what Dad calls ‘an idea man’, constantly building inventions of dubious value.

Youngest son Dale serves mainly as the narrator. The daughter, Tracy (Sophie Lee)is a graduate of the Sunshine Tech hairdressing college and recently returned from her honeymoon in Thailand with her kick-boxing husband. Dale is constantly pestering them about the movies they saw on the plane.

Darryl positively dotes on his wife Sal (Anne Tenney), who is constantly ‘beautifying’ their house with her (bad) handicrafts. He seizes every opportunity to compliment her, especially about her cooking. When being served dinner, Darryl exclaims “Wow, what is it?” “Chicken,” she states. “Yes, but what are these sprinkles on it?” “Seasoning” “Seasoning!! Well everyone’s kicked a goal tonight!” Dale boldly reports that during mealtimes, “the television is definitely turned down.”

But what Darryl is most proud of, is their home at 3 Highview Crescent, Cooloroo, which he built himself on what was once a toxic landfill (what’s a little lead). He is constantly building additions (illegally), but tends to start another project before finishing the last one. It is located right next to the local airport runway. “Location, location, location,” as the real estate broker said, it could not be more convenient for traveling, not however, that any of them have ever been on an airplane before. Another advantage is the fact that they are right under monstrous power lines, which serve to remind them of man's progress. Darryl often spends his time thinking while staring at them. Dale proudly states, “Its worth almost as much as he paid for it.”

Here, the Kerrigan family is happy. Wayne keeps a picture of the house in his cell. "I reckon we're the luckiest family in the world," Darryl states sincerely. Then they receive a summons stating that the house is being forcibly acquired for an airport expansion.

The international company that owns the airport facilities is also part government agency. Therefore, they have the right under Australian law to take the land once the owners are adequately compensated. The problem is that Darryl and the other residents don’t want to sell for any price. Darryl decides to go to the administrative appeals court. Believing that all he has to do is explain his case to a judge, Darryl bellows, “It's not a house, it's a home. A man's home is his castle.” Therefore they can’t take his house. Needless to say, this does not impress the judge who orders the condemnation to stand.

Darryl enlists the aid of his solicitor, Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora), a very low-level attorney who is having severe problems with his photocopier. He also lost Wayne's case and must have gone to the Sunshine Tech College of Law and Sheep Shearing. Dennis takes their case to the Federal Court were he argues that the taking is illegal because its against the general ‘vibe’ of the Australian Constitution. As before, the judge is not impressed, especially when Dennis approaches the bench and asks the judge if he’s on the right tract.

Fortunately for Darryl, while waiting for the judge’s verdict, he strikes up a conversation with a friendly elderly fellow (Charles "Bud" Tingwell-a well known character actor) who he learns is retired, but in court to see his son’s first time before the bar. After learning he lost the case, Darryl is extremely depressed and the family prepares to pack up. Then at a knock on the door, it’s the elderly fellow who turns out to have been a constitutional lawyer and has looked into their case and wants to take it to the Supreme Court.

"The Castle," directed by Rob Sitch, is fantastically funny film full of the kind of eccentric characters that inhabited many of the 50s and 60s British comedies, especially those with Alex Guinness and the other well known character actors of the time. It is the type of film that will never again be made by Hollywood. Ordinary working class people are treated in a non-defacing manner with the humor laughing with them rather than at them. Hollywood would have treated them like back-woods red-neck white trash. It also does not treat the corporation wishing to expand the airport as some vast evil conspiracy that must be defeated through some sort of socialist reform. It is a story about everyday people who go to extraordinary and hilarious lengths to save their home and maintain their ideals. Ok, the corporation does send a goon around to ‘give them a message’, but Darryl deals with them by stealing the corporate president’s front gate.

This is one of the most wittily written films I have seen in years. No scrape of dialog diverges from the humorous intent of the film. There is none of the typical superfluous verbiage that inhabits most Hollywood comedies. The performances were dead-on and entirely believable with Dale’s plain faced narration heightening the humor. I so enjoyed watching this film that I did something I now rarely ever do: I watched the tape twice before I took it back to the shop. It is sure to become one of my favorite films of all time.


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