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Australia 1984
Directed by
David Stevens
83 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Although impressive for its production design, even for a time in Australian film when nostalgia still was considered commercially attractive, with evident talent and money having been lavished on Roaring Twenties costume design and art direction, including a stylishly mounted musical number as its finale, in every other respect Undercover is a by-numbers affair.

One might question the wisdom of making a film about corsetry but even so Miranda Downes’ script sticks to a familiar narrative template as she follows the adventures of  a young employee (Genevieve Picot) of a firm of corsetiers in Mudgee, who, sick of her provincial life, sets out for The Big Smoke a.k.a Sydney. After some failed skirmishes with other forms of employment she ends up working for Frank Burley of  Unique Corsets, soon to become the House of Berlei and a pioneer of the Buy Australian campaign.

If Downes’s script is predictable, the directing by Stevens, whose experience had been largely in television, is unadventurous and the cast enthusiastic (and in some cases over-eager as in the case of Michael Paré’s American sales booster) but unremarkable, with Picot too old for the part. The film has some interest for its depiction of the status, and in the post-World War I period, changing values of Australian women and the country in general as it reached out for its unique identity but this only qualifies it as a broad history lesson. Dramatically it is too mannered in delivery and conventional in form to satisfy.

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