17 May 2005 | pbluck
Worth more than the title
I saw "Three Dollars" today, on a bleak Canberra day. It was not the best Australian movie I have ever seen (my heart belongs to "Picnic at Hanging Rock"). But it was the kind of movie that Australians ought to make (rather than being the location for explosion-based stuff from the US) and that Australians ought to queue to see. It was unerringly about us. Not the flatulent lies of nationalism or the chest-beating idiocies of economic rationalism. It was about how, faced with the second of those two catastrophes, a decent man emerged. He did not win (not in the film, anyway). His professional concern about a toxic land development did not stop it. He did not win Lotto, or write an award winning book. The most he may have done was change the perceptions of Amanda, a representative of those who succeed when goodness is a handicap. Like good men everywhere, since the Biblical Job, he tried throughout to act as a good man should. As is inevitable with screenplays adapted from literature, there were options that could have been taken and were not. One could quibble, but I'll leave that to others. Long scenes may have alienated some viewers, but were uncomfortably real - in my life at least, conversations don't end with the bit that advances the plot and events spill out in several directions at once. (Linearity is a curse!). The performances were uniformly sound. David Wenham showed versatility and a depth that was present in "The Boys". Frances O'Connor underplayed wonderfully, so that the Edam cheese scene became the strongest signal of her character. The child was unusually persuasive and thoughtful direction produced depth and colour from the more peripheral roles (the alcoholic, the creature made manager and Kate, the friend of Tracey). This is a film of lacerating honesty, and a work that asks whether society is advanced by blind progress. Eliot Perlman's book from which the film was adapted was a revelation - an epistle of decency written by a lawyer - and his second book ("Seven Types of Ambiguity") is even more challenging. I look forward to the film and am trying to predict the cast already.