A few weeks ago I showed a friend of mine the scenes at the bottom of this post from the Australian film Shine. It then occurred to me I hadn’t reviewed this movie on Friday’s Finest. Shine came out 2 years after last week’s reviewed Australian film Muriel’s Wedding. The 1990’s is arguably the best decade of Australian cinema which contained films like Babe, Romper Stomper, Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, Strictly Ballroom, The Castle and today’s featured film – Shine.
Shine became an unexpected international hit winning an Oscar for Geoffrey Rush (beating odds-on favourite Tom Cruise for his role as Jerry Maguire whom personally I think deserved it since it’s one of my favourite movies, but we’ll keep that between you and I).
Shine is based on the life of piano genius David Helfgott, a child prodigy whose schizo-affective disorder manifested in young adulthood, causing a mental breakdown. He spent years in an institution before making an unlikely recovery. The two scenes below are respectively his mental breakdown after playing one of Rachmaninov’s most difficult pieces – The Piano Conerto No 3 and his re-emergence as a much older man playing Flight of the Bumblebee in a local restaurant. At the Academy Awards ceremony, the real-life Helfgott received a standing ovation for a fevered rendition of the same famous piece.
Shine grossed $35,892,330 in the United States and Canada. The film also grossed $10,187,418 at the box office in Australia. Interestingly Geoffrey Rush resumed piano lessons—suspended when he was 14 —in order not to require a hand double.
In terms of the movie’s actual historical accuracy there appears controversy about how Helfgott’s father was portrayed as an abusive tyrant. Helfgott’s sister Margaret Helfgott maintained in her book that their father was a loving husband and an overly lenient parent. The director Scott Hicks published a letter to The Wall Street Journal when Margaret Helfgott’s book came out, defending the authenticity of the movie’s portrayal of Helfgott’s childhood and suggesting that David’s other siblings, Susie and Les, were at odds with Margaret’s claims and were happy with the movie. Shine remains for me an iconic movie.