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Australia 1982
Directed by
Ken Cameron
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Monkey Grip

This transposition of the Helen Garner novel of the same name, scripted by Cameron with Garner, is a reasonably effective portrait of the lives of a group of contemporary bohemian Carlton-dwelling Melbournites indulging in the sex, drugs and rock n'roll culture of the 1870s. It does not achieve the authenticity of a film such as Dogs In Space, perhaps partly because, aside from some picturesque location shots, it was largely made in Sydney but more probably because the cast are more properly trained actors and seem too old for the band scene milieu in which they are set. Sociologically, even a film such as Stork was more convincing. At least there the Strine accents and general laconicism made sense. Here they seem a little too manufactured.

Critically well-received in its day as an adult drama it remains well watchable at this level. Noni Hazlehurst, who won an AFI Best Actress award for her performance and has since gone on to a varied film and television career, is captivating as Nor', whilst Colin Friels, although not particularly believable as a junkie, is highly serviceable as her dramatic foil. One assumes that Nora is Garner's fictionalised self and it is of interest that Garner's daughter, Alice,  plays Nora's daughter, Gracie. Mention should also be made of the presence of Chrissie Amphlett both in the cast and performing with her band, The Divinyls, who provided the soundtrack.

DVD Extras: There's an interview with producer Pat Lovell, Cameron and Alice Garner talking about the film's making and an audio interview with Helen Garner. Other items of interest include a (much later) clip of the Divinyls performing their Top 40 classic, All The Boys In Town and the theatrical trailer.




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