Directed by Emma Kate Croghan
Essay written by Emma Rogan
Part one : Film Information
Principal Cast and Credits-
Director: Emma Kate Croghan Script: Emma Kate Croghan and Stavros Kazantzidis
Cinematographer: Justin Brinkle Producers:Bruno Charlesworth and Stavros Kazantzidis
Claudia Karvan Naomi Watts Alice Garner
Felix Williamson Tom Long Aaron Jeffrey
Hugo Weaving Rebecca Frith
Production Companies: Premium Movie Partnership
NSW Film and Telvision Office
The Australian Film Finance Corporation
Distributors: New Vision Films (Australia)
Red Bus Film Distributors (United Kingdom)
Release dates: Australia- 7th October 1999
Argentina- 20th November 1999
New Zealand- 8th January 2000
United Kingdom- 21st January 2000
I was unable to find any kind of box office or budget figures.
The ‘Arts film review’ and the ‘Triple J’ reviews were word for word the same. Published on the 8th and 13th of October respectively they decided that ‘Strange Planet’ was Australia’s answer to ‘Friends’. Rich Cline a movie critic of the United Kingdom whilst finding the film entertaining was unable to differentiate between ‘Strange Planet’ and any other romatic comedy he had seen.
These two reviews sum up all of the reviews I have read on ‘Strange Planet’ whilst reviewers found it entertaining they also found that it was unable to offer them anything different to what other movies of the same genre offer.
When searching the inter-net for this film I was quite dismayed as, with most searches, it came up with more pornography about people with strange fetishes rather than finding me information about this film. It truly was saddening to find that out of the billions and billions of pages that are on the inter-net only twelve were about this Australian movie and of those twelve only half were actually useful to me. The site I found most useful for finding information was: www.imdb.com
I gained most of my information from The ‘Inter-net Movie Database’. However, to find reviews I went to the library and looked in various newspapers.
Part Two: Essay
‘Strange Planet’ is a demonstration of the capability of Australian Cinema. With its truly Australian cast we are given a piece which shows that Australians can make movies, and entertaining ones at that we are also shown that as Australian films become more similar to Hollywood we find it hard to compete. Directed by Emma Kate Croghan this romantic comedy reflects the Australian lifestyle, attitudes and sense of humour as there six main characters search there world for ‘the one’.
The main characters consist of three girls and three boys. The girls are roommates quite different in personality however, they are the best of friends. The boys are partners in a law firm and are not just friends but ‘mates’. The film follows their lives for one year, from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve we see just how much can happen in one year and how much the time and experiences of one year can change a person. Judy (Karvan), Alice (Watts) and Sally (Garner) each have their moments of realisation in this one year Judy must deal with her addiction of dating older, married men, Sally comes to recognise that her experimental behaviour is actually doing her damage, and Alice must ‘get over’ her ex-boyfriend of two years and return to university. Similarly the boys Ewan (Tom Long), Joel(Aaron Jeffrey), and Neil (Felix Williamson) come to their own realisation after a pregnancy scare with a casual girlfriend Ewan must get his life back on track, when his childhood sweetheart leaves him Joel must learn to move on and Neil must realise it’s better to be lonely than to be with the wrong person. Inevitably the six end up with each other on the final New Year’s Eve of the film and we find that they are perfect for each other. The plot attempted to have a fast moving pace with modern day montage shots yet it seemed to move moderately towards the end. It was obvious that the six would end up together yet a few twists and turns were included to throw the audience off the obvious conclusion. For me, it was difficult to say whether I did or did not enjoy the film. It was a film which I came away from not feeling strongly for any particular side. It was not a bad film but I believe that it lacked a certain something that left it sitting just below the "wow that was great" instead I came out with a "hmmm". There was one part in particular that did have me puzzled, at the end of the film Alice, the shy, uncomfortable around boys, not interested in sex girl, sleeps with a man she met just hours ago whilst Judy, the ‘I don’t believe in love’, ‘sex is all there is’, loves men girl, ends simply sleeping in the arms of another man. This ending sees a complete role reversal which, for me, confused my outlook on the whole film. As these two characters had been built up to and remained that way for the entire film until this part. I can see the significance of Judy’s character changing as she had found love but why would Alice’s character change so rapidly to feel comfortable having sex with some one she had just rather than ‘going on a date’ as she had intended. Other than this minor hiccup that haunts me I believe the plot developed well with enough twists to throw us off the scent of the obvious but not too many too annoy the hell out of us.
Most critical reviews that I have read about ‘Strange Planet’ do not rave about it. Instead they believe that it is unable to differentiate itself from other films in the same genre. All critiques I have read pick Claudia Karvan as the person who stands out with others naming Long and Williamson for well executing the characters they play. Hugo Weaving is also giving mention as only he can do he brings his charisma and draws attention in his role of Judy’s lover. Whilst no one outright slanders Strange Planetmost feel that it does lack something that will give it its own definition as opposed to being simply another romantic comedy.
The Behind the Scenes of ‘Strange Planet’ range from the quite experienced to first timers. For director Emma Kate Croghan this is her third film, it follows ‘Love and other Catastrophes’ and ‘Come as you are’ her next project will mark her Hollywood debut it is entitled ‘A Scanner Darkly’. It is Croghan’s second collaboration with Stavros Kazantzidis in ‘Strange Planet’ we see Kazantzidis first attempt at co-producing. by the side of Bruno Charlesworth (The Craic 1999). This is also the second time that Croghan and Kazantzidis have co-written a film, the first being "Love and Other Catastrophes" which they obviously deemed both a successful film and a beneficial combination and so they joined again for this film. Another second time combination is Justin Brinkle the cinematographer, again he worked with Croghan and Kazantzidis in "Love and Other Catastrophes" which goes to prove the age old adage ‘if you’re onto a good thing you must stick to it’. The combination proves to be one that is beneficial to all parties as they are able to make their movies and relatively good ones at that all the while demonstrating to their audiences that Australians are more than capable in the film industry.
Similarly the actors in this film equally show the audience their own abilities. The credits to the six main actors range from five to twenty six. Aaron Jeffrey has the smallest number of credits. At five credits he has done two films and three television series one of which is Water Rats his first work was in television in a series called Fire. Also with five credits to her name is Alice Garner. Garner has worked mainly in film but she had a stint in television with Sea Change her first film was Monkey Grip where she played Noni Hazlehurst’s daughter. Garner was also in Croghan’s other film Love and Other Catastrophes , she has been nominated for two AFI awards both for best supporting actress. Felix Williamson comes next with six credits. His first film was Welcome to Woop Woop in which he plays Jerome. Other credits include Babe: Pig in the City and Me Myself I . Next comes Tom Long with eleven credits out of these eleven four are television credits and the rest are films. His first film was The Leaving of Liverpool a movie made for television in 1992. Now comes Naomi Watts with twenty two credits of these twenty two eight are television credits, which include Brides Of Christ and Home and Away. Her first film was For Love Alone which she made in 1986. Finally we reach Claudia Karvan with twenty six credits. More than likely the most recognised of the six main actors, her films include Dating the Enemy, High Tide, The Big Steal, The Heartbreak Kid and Paperback Hero. Her first film was Molly which was filmed in 1983 and she played Maxie Ireland. in her career she has been nominated for seven AFI awards (1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999) unfortunately she has not yet won an AFI. So as you can see for the cast of this film they are hardly inexperienced actors. The ability of these actors is not only demonstrated by the way in which they portray their characters in this film but also by their versatility between films, television series and a variety of characters.
Strange Planet , being an Australian film, differs, but only slightly, from its Hollywood counterparts. To make it in Australian Cinema Tom O’Regan believes you must be both different from and similar to Hollywood cinema. Strange Planet is just as glossy as any Hollywood film and its obvious connection to Friends again links it to the Hollywood cinema style. However, the Australian setting attempts to bring it back into Australian cinema. I believe that this film presents itself too closely to the way in which Hollywood does and its this presentation that draws the audience to compare it with Hollywood films as opposed to other Australian films. This comparison becomes the downfall of the film as it is almost impossible to compare high budget Hollywood films to the Australian Film Industry. Although we do recognise the film to be Australian because its backdrop is reminiscent of Melbourne it is all to easily confused with the movies churned out of Hollywood and therefore compared to them.
The reception of Strange Planet in an overseas audience would be interesting to view. It was released in New Zealand, Argentina and the United Kingdom as well as Australia, the way in which the non Australian audience would have received this film is something to consider. I was unable to attain reviews from New Zealand and Argentina, however the United Kingdom’s Rich Cline seem to take the same view point as the Australian reviewers. That is he believed that Strange Planet was missing a certain something that would separate it from other films in the genre. I believe the certain something it lacks is a distinct Australian identity.
This film is representative of the growing trend in Australian Cinema. This growing trend is also present in movies like Dark City and Dead Calm these films attempt to be so similar to Hollywood cinema that it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is Hollywood and what is Australian. By following this trend not only will we eventually lose our distinct National Cinema but we will constantly be competing with higher budgets and more elaborate sets, costumes etc. By being so similar to Hollywood filmsStrange Planet loses out as it can’t quite ‘cut it’ as a ‘Hollywood’ type film yet it asks for comparison to one and it is here that the audience sees the shortfall. As long as there is this gross lack of funding within the Australian Film Industry we will always find it difficult to compete for an international audience. With Australian Cinema Being a medium sized English language cinema film makers must attempt to pitch to this particular audience.
Strange Planet is a demonstration of the talent within and the capability of the Australian Film industry. However, this capability brings us to the boarder of Hollywood cinema and it is by getting too close to this boarder that brings us problems. As we do not have the high budgets and resources that Hollywood cinema is given we cannot truly be compared with them yet by making films that resemble Hollywood cinema we are and rated second best. We are also losing the ‘Australianess’ which makes our cinema distinct.
Dark City,dir. Alex Proyas, 1998
Strange Planet, dir. Emma Kate Croghan, 1999
Tom O’Regan, ‘Australian National Cinema", (Routledge: London, 1996)