Sunday, 16 September 2007

Tory: "It's weird. Being so close to something this dangerous." Will: "They're not as bad as they look."

Money. Class. Power. Greed. Crime. Sex. Death.

The Bet, written by ex-corporate lawyer Caroline Gerard, wants to impress but on its own terms. This is a neat movie and three stars from Margaret and David, as well as really negative press elsewhere, is undeserved. It rocks.

The Machiavellian Angus (Aden Young) is handsome, rich, and descended from 'exclusives' (early Australian colonists without any taint of convict). The other side is played by Will (Matthew Newton): eager, upstart, son of a father who lives in a fibro cottage out in the 'burbs. Tory (Sybilla Budd) belongs more to Aden's class than Will's, but it's Will she wants.

The scene in the acquarium (pic) reveals the makers' hand: not too much subtlety lest the hard-edged, hard-boiled matter their story deals in, be broken by false atmosphere. The plot is fiendishly simple. The poetry is in the small moments. The musical score is brilliant and is accompanied by a grungy set of audio effects intended to heighten the viewer's excitement.

The film is 'about' Sydney. The most beautiful city in the world? Probably. Certainly, the most unlikely success. But while we like to ponder this irony we forget that early colonialists were not all convicts. In fact, the existence of a landed gentry in the form of the fabled squattocracy, surely hastened granting of democratic institutions by London. Without men like Angus, New South Wales may not have got its parliament so early. Nevertheless, it's men like Will we barrack for now.

The visuals, too, are very nice: simple yet rich with symbolism. Tory's flat is superb and can be considered a member of the cast in its own right. Likewise the views from Burns Bay Road, where Will is shot jogging one morning, with its gorgeous vistas of the towered skyline looming just beyond this quiet, dappled arm of lovely Port Jackson.

If I were to give this film a set of stars, it would be at least four-and-a-half. It reminded me, in its stripped-down modernist aesthetic, of the early Paul Cox films I will never grow tired of watching.

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