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David Wenham

as director

Ellipsis (David Wenham, 2017) Emily Barclay, Benedict Samuel; romance

as actor

[notes from a blog which no longer exists]

I've been disagreeing recently with an actor friend—who shall remain nameless—about the acting ability of David Wenham.

He, my friend, thinks DW is an outstanding actor who is good in all his parts (and my friend, being a pro, is probably right) but I have a different opinion. I think Wenham is very impressive in just a few roles, in which he plays a psychopath or something similar, and very ordinary in others.

Like many older Australians, I suspect, I most associate DW with Diver Dan in Sea Change, the marvellous creation of Deb Cox and Andrew Knight, and we all liked his laidback personality. But I think it has turned out that Wenham wasn't acting much in that role: that's pretty-much what he's like, and it's pretty-much the way he is in much of his screen work. On the other hand, if his character has some motivation to be crazy or angry or twisted, then he can produce something remarkable. There are two films in particular which I think demonstrate this.

In Cosi (Mark Joffe, 1996) he stands out as the pyromaniac, even in one of the strongest casts assembled in an Australian film. And he is the malevolent heart of The Boys (Rowan Woods, 1997) even (again) opposite the phenomenal Toni Collette.

In many other parts, however, he walks through. He can be excused in his Rings appearances: the real actors in Peter Jackson films are sitting in front of terminals using tablets. But he is underwhelming in a very long list of films: in Molokai (Paul Cox, 1999) he plays the sub-eponymous character Father Damien, and therefore carries the whole film; he even dares to be on screen at the same time as Peter O'Toole—and of course becomes invisible—or at best embarrassing. In Better than Sex (Jonathan Teplitzky, 2000) and again in Russian Doll (Stavros Kazantzidis, 2001) he plays a romcom lead, looking as romantic as a sheep. Again he carries a film (tho helped quite a bit by Anthony LaPaglia, tho not Sibylla Budd) in The Bank (Robert Connolly, 2001) in which the most interesting moments are provided by the computer graphics (as opposed to CGI): the opening titles are the best thing in that dull film. I can't even remember seeing the Murray Whelan films—maybe I didn't. Finally (for this argument) Wenham phoned in Three Dollars (Robert Connolly, 2005) which I doubt anyone remembers—except for Bob Connolly and the investors who (I'm guessing) lost money on it.

Now we've seen him in Lion, and while there's not much to recommend this film, Wenham's contribution is most certainly the least.


Garry Gillard | New: 24 August, 2014 | Now: 6 January, 2020