The Castle (1997) – Rob Sitch (Friday’s Finest)

This contains one of my all-time greatest comedic lines in Australian cinema history…
Dad says to son Steve: ‘Oh Steve could you move the Camira, I need to get the Torana out so I can get to the Commodore‘.
Steve – ‘I’ll have to get the keys to the Cortina if I’m gonna move that Camira‘.
Dad – ‘Yeah watch the boat mate‘.

The Castle is the quintessential Australian family movie. I don’t think another was made which depicts so accurately the suburban family culture in Australia during the 80’s / 90’s period. Also it’s offbeat-quirky humour is uniquely Australian and hasn’t been replicated in my estimation in cinema. The humour plays on the national self-image, most notably the concept of working-class Australians and their place in modern Australia. It’s American equivalent for representing the nation’s family and cultural values you could say is Ron Howard’s Parenthood starring Steve Martin.

Internationally, the legendary Crocodile Dundee starring Aussie comedian Paul Hogan which thrilled international audiences and instigated an unprecedented tourist boom to Australia is arguably Australia’s most popular ‘international’ movie. It’s a pity The Castle was never distributed internationally and scantily known in film-circles outside of Australia, except for New Zealand. I know it is almost universally admired back home, making it somewhat of an Australian cult classic.

A Melbourne family is very happy living where they do, near the Melbourne airport (according to Jane Kennedy, it’s “practically their back yard”). However, they are forced to leave their beloved home, by the Government and airport authorities. ‘The Castle’ is the story of how they fight to remain in their house, taking their case as far as the High Court.

There are just so many moments in The Castle where I found myself transported back to my upbringing. It’s probably unsexy to mention it in this day and age but The Castle represents the traditional nuclear family back then when it was made; when the father was the principal breadwinner, the mother the part-time worker and home-caregiver and the sons – spoilt sit-around loafs, including one in jail. But don’t let that turn you off because it’s akin to ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (a movie I must review here at Friday’s Finest) which aims low but taps into a certain subculture elevating it into something wonderful. Overseas visitors to Australia should watch The Castle in order to “get” Australia and Australians.

The movie was just filmed in 11 days with a budget of just $AU 750,000. It made 13 times the investment at the box office. It’s just plain funny this movie and heart-warming especially how it represents the most humble of families sticking it to the the authorities. The film’s title is based upon the English saying, repeatedly referred to in the film, “A man’s home is his castle“. Since the movie is practically unavailable to those outside of Australia, I found a full version of the movie complete on You Tube below. I hope you like it:

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV

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