Two Friends (1986)
Reviewed by Katie Taylor
MED231- Australian Cinema
File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

General Information

Year of Release: 1986, made for television
Production Company: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Runtime: 76 minutes
Certification: No rating
Box Office Figures: N/A

Cast and Crew

Kris Bidenko......................................... Kelly
Emma Coles...........................................Louise
Kris McQuade........................................Janet, Louise's Mother
Peter Hehir............................................Malcolm
Kerry Dwyer..........................................Alison
Stephen Leeder.......................................Jim
Debra May............................................Chris, Kelly's Mother
John Sheerin..........................................Dead Girl's Father
Sean Travers..........................................Matthew
Emily Stocker.........................................Soula
Lynne Murphy........................................School Principal
Giovanni Marangoni.................................Rento
Benny Ulizzi...........................................Sam
Rory Delaney..........................................Wally
Lisa Rogers............................................Little Helen

Director................................................Jane Campion
Producer................................................Jan Chapman
Writing Credits.......................................Helen Garner
Cinematography.......................................Julian Penney
Film Editor.............................................Bill Russo
Original Music........................................Martin Armiger
Production Design....................................Janet Patterson
Costume Design.......................................Janet Patterson
Production Manager..................................Carol Chirlian
Special Effects.........................................Laurie Faen

Video/DVD Information

Video Release Date: 1996
Release Company: Milestone Video

DVD Release Date: September 2002
Release Company: Milestone Film and Video

Special Features
A "Lost" Jane Campion Short
Two Friends Production Essay
Still Gallery

The short film in the special features section of the DVD, Mishaps and Seduction and Conquest, was directed by Champion in 1984. It runs 15 minutes and thirteen seconds. The black and white short contrasts the letters written by George Mallory, a member of the unsuccessful second expedition to scale Mount Everest, and his brother Geoffrey, chronicling conquests of a different nature.

The production essay is available for those who have a DVD-ROM. It is a 21 page press kit for Two Friends. It includes biographies of the cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scene stills, and comments from the director and writer on the making of the film.

The still gallery features photos of the cast and crew, as a 45-second slide show.

Literature

Books:

Murray, S., Caputo, R., & Thoridnet, C. (1994). Australian Cinema. St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin.

O'Regan, T. (1996). Australian National Cinema. London: Routledge.


Online Media Reviews:

Hicks, C. (1996). "Two Friends" review from DesertNews.com. Reviewed on August 2, 1996.

Holden, S. (1996). "Two Friends" review from New York Times. Reviewed on April 24, 1996. Retrieved from nytimes.com/library/film/two_friends.html.

Macor, A. (1996). "Two Friends" review from Austinchronicle.com. Reviewed on June 7, 1996.

Nelson, R. (1997). "Two Friends" review from Nashvillescene.com. Reviewed on September 22, 1997.

Richter, S. (1996). "Two Friends" review from TucsonWeekly.com. Reviewed on October 10, 1996.

Schwartz, D. (2003). "Two Friends" review from Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Reviewed on November 4, 2003.
Tyner, A. (1996). Review of "Two Friends" from DVDtalk.com. Reviewed on April 8, 2002.

Ulmer, J. (2002). "Two Friends" DVD review from DigitallyObsessed.com. Reviewed on March 4, 2002. Retrieved from http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showreview.phps?ID=3099.

Ventura, E. (2002). "Two Friends" review from Pop Matters Film. Reviewed on November 3, 2002. Retrieved from http://www.popmatters.com/film/review/t/two_friends.shtml.

Movie Databases:

Movie Review Query Engine- www.mrqe.com
The Internet Movie Database- www.imdb.com
Rotten Tomatoes- www.rottentomatoes.com

Quick Facts
· Director Jane Campion's debut feature film
· Premiered at Cannes Film Festival
· Came out on video 10 years after festival premier
· Also mentioned as 2 Friends
Information Collection

To find information about Two Friends, I searched through Australian cinema books, internet reviews, and movie databases. Because this movie was originally aired in 1986, there was a limited amount of information about it, in terms of interviews with cast and crew during production, however, the recent interest in director Jane Campion, due to the success of the Oscar winning film The Piano (1993), I believe, has allowed Two Friends to resurface and draw some attention.
Mentions of the film in Australian Cinema books were brief. O'Regan (1996) mentions Two Friends three times in his book Australian National Cinema. He mentions Two Friends in relation to the "national broadcasters" such as the ABC, which have influence in the area of one-off documentaries, limited-episode drama, telemovies (ABC production Two Friends) and shorts (p. 15). O'Regan also discusses Two Friends when addressing the issue of locality cultural cleavages (p.268). He notes that scriptwriter Helen Garner imagined the story of Two Friends in Melbourne, however director Jane Campion chose to have it shot in Sydney. This is important when one considers the difference between the two cities. Garner pointed out that "the two big cities are tonally as distinct from each other as Boston is from L.A., or Lyon from Marseilles. The very image of a house [on which Two Friends is heavily dependent] bears one sort of psychological emphasis in warm, open Sydney, and a completely different one in Melbourne, where dwellings are enclosing, curtained, cold-weather resisting: more like burrows" (p.268). Finally, O'Regan mentions Two Friends when discussing filmmaking and gender. The ability of writer Helen Garner and director Jane Campion to work together so well on the film is noted (p. 295).
Two Friends is also listed on Murray, Caputo, & Thoridnet's (1994) list of "Filmography: one hundred and fifty Australian films". This list gives information about the film and a brief plot summary (p. 308). Other mentions of the film in Australian Cinema are in relation to the personal relationships that are common to Campion films (p. 130) and characters conforming to social pressures in Australian films (p. 213).
The release of the video in 1996 and the DVD in 2002 have re-introduced the film to the movie critics and public, creating a fair amount of online movie reviews. Nearly all of the movie reviews of Two Friends were positive, commonly calling it a 'coming-of-age film", "charming", and "intimate". The reviews praise Campion on her debut feature film. A great deal of attention is paid to Campion's ability to not only tell a story, but show a story. I do wonder what impact her recent films and reputation had on the positive reviews of this movie, given that Two Friends was more widely reviewed 18 years after it was originally aired. It would have been interesting to have been able to find the reviews of the television movie from 1986, before Campion was famous.
Finally, the movie databases provided good, basic information on the movie, cast, and crew.
Most searches on the internet were done by Google searches, under topics such as Campion & "Two Friends and film review of "Two Friends".

Critical Review of Two Friends
Synopsis

Two Friends (1986), directed by Jane Campion, follows two 15-year old girls as they grow through adolescence and, in the process, grow apart. Set in Sydney, the film moves chronologically backward through 9 months, beginning with the shattered relationship of Louise (Emma Coles) and Kelly (Kris Bidenko) and ending with an unshakeable friendship. At the beginning of the film, the girls could not be more different. Louise attends an all-girls parochial school and is usually wearing her brown school uniform. She is more concerned with getting her homework done and her music lessons than anything else. Kelly, on the other hand, is first seen on Bondi Beach smoking, with the boyfriend that she lives with. She exemplifies 80s punk fashion, with her over-sized black outfit and spiky hair. Boys, drinking, smoking, and day-to-day survival are the main things on her mind. As the move progresses, or in this case, recesses, the story becomes clearer as to why the girls have ended up the way they have. Parental relationships play a very important part in shaping who the young girls have become. Louise lives with her mother, Janet (Kris McQuade), who although separated from Louise's father, is a strong foundation in her daughter's life. The two have an open relationship, often discussing, although sometimes to the embarrassment of Louise, problems with friends, school, and boys. Janet also serves as a second mother figure to Kelly, who struggles with her home situation. Kelly's mother, Chris (Debra May) is remarried to Malcolm (Peter Hehir), who, with his anti-establishment attitude and dominant personality, has taken over the household decisions. One decision Malcolm makes is that Kelly will not be allowed to go to City Girls High, which she and Louise both were accepted to. After attending the school's open house, Malcolm decides the school has too many rules, so Kelly will not be allowed to go, and Kelly's weak mother stands by Malcolm instead of her own daughter. This decision serves as the main fracture in the girls' relationship. As the film moves toward the beginning of the 9 month period, the closeness of the two girls becomes obvious, as they have sleep overs, spend hours on the phone with each other, and share inside jokes. Kelly goes through the more dramatic change as the film moves back in time. The hope and naivete that Louise carries throughout the film is finally also apparent in Kelly. The final scene of the movie depicts the girls celebrating their acceptance to City Girls High, capping it off with a joyful squeal from Kelly.

Critique

Two Friends had several elements to it that gave interest to the film. First, the backward progression of the film had an impact. Campion said she was inspired by a Harold Pinter play, Betrayal, which used the same backward device for its narrative. This technique was pointed out and praised by most reviewers. Stacey Richter, in her Tucson Weekly review, stated, "By moving back in time, Campion and Helen Garner, who wrote the screenplay, accentuate the sadness of Kelly's incremental loss of innocence". However, I found this backward motion hard to follow at times. Characters were introduced into the story line before you understood who they were. It took several viewings of the film before finally understanding how everything related to one another.
Another feature of Campion's film that is worth pointing out is her unique camera angles. Many times during the film, the camera would remain in place and allow the characters to move in and out of it shot. Over head and floor level shots added interest to the showing of the story, rather than just telling.
Campion also used inanimate objects as her focal points throughout the film. While at the grocery store, the viewer can hear the conversation of the characters as they shop, however, the camera is focused on the wheels of the shopping cart. Another object that held importance throughout the film was shoes. Campion focused on the difference in shoes between the girls; Louise having brown shoes for her school uniform and Kelly wearing black heeled shoes. They almost become a symbol of having, or not having in Kelly and Louise's case, something in common. When Louise buys her school shoes, she is embarrassed for Kelly to see them and while on the bus, the camera focuses on another pair of brown shoes, which Louise immediately recognizes as someone from her school without seeing anything but the shoes.
Setting is also used well by Campion. The main areas the film took place is in the homes of the two girls. The use of drab interiors creates an eerie feeling of domestic problems. The people in the film are also often dwarfed by the massive urban structures, such as the steps at a public pool, common, nondescript apartment buildings, and cement parking garages and highway ramps. Kelly's bleak outlook is felt through these images.
Music was another important feature to the film. The original music for the movie was composed by Martin Armiger (also Young Einstein (1988) and Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997)). A slow playing piano seamed the sometimes choppy narrative together, giving a solemn feeling to the film. Music was also used in scenes with Louise, as she practiced her piano and French horn. During one scene, Louise is reading a letter from Kelly, at one of the lowest points in their friendship, which has a voice over of Kelly reading. Louise puts down the letter and begins to play the piano, while Kelly's voice continues. As she gives details of her new life, Louise's playing becomes faster and more intense and the end of Kelly's reading concludes with Louise putting her head down on the keys.
Finally, toward the end of movie, there is a quirky change in the slow-moving film that has run till this point. During another narration of a note to Louise from Kelly, at this point when they are very good friends and writing school-girl notes to one another, sequences depicting Kelly's daydreams skip across the screen in a cartoon-ish, fast-motion flash. In a Pop Matters Film review, Elbert Ventura points out that, "Campion pulls out all the stops during this interlude, using different film stocks, coloring within the frame, stop-motion photography, and other fantastical tricks". This part of the movie points to the girls' spirit of childlike innocence, something that the viewers know will not be around forever.
For her first feature film debut, Champion had a lot going on during the 76 minute film. Her techniques for telling AND showing made the film extremely realistic. The viewers are allowed to relate to what the girls are going through, as they change and move down different paths from one another. The actresses' performances were also very compelling, as the viewer feels like they are almost watching a documentary about teenage issues. The girls do not look like the typical teenage girls seen in American teen movies. Louise is skinny, in a shapeless way, with short hair and little fashion (because she is in her uniform) and Kelly has big legs, pink skin, and is described by Richter as looking like "a bad-girl teen guest on Jenny Jones than someone who'd turn up on the silver screen". Overall, Two Friends is an interesting film, which I believe would be of particular interest to Campion fans.

Why an Australian Feature Film Teen Pic?

Two Friends is considered to be Jane Campion's first feature film. However, the film does not fit all of the criteria of a feature film, set by Gillard (unpublished). The first criterion was that the film must be at least 60 minutes long. Two Friends fits this criterion, running 78 minutes. The second criterion is that the movie must have been showed to a paying audience. This is where Two Friends fall out of the feature film category. It was originally made for ABC as a telepic. I did find, however, that the film was shown at Cannes Film Festival and, since the success of The Piano (1993), has been shown at film screenings, so possibly, the film has become a feature film as it has become older.
The Australian film classification is an easy one with Two Friends. According to Gillard (unpublished), an Australian film is one in which Aussie people, society, locations, and landscapes are represented. Two Friends is about two Australian girls and their families, set in the late-eighties in Sydney, therefore, it fits Gillard's criteria for an Australian film. Murray (1995) sets some further criteria, basing the "Australian-ness" of the film on the country were most of the photography took place, the nationality of the production company, the nationality of the director, and where the copyright is held. Two Friends fits all of these criteria, except for the nationality of the director, because Campion is native to Wellington, New Zealand, although she resides in Australia today.
The genre selection for this film was not a difficult one. The movie stared two teenage girls, in a movie about teenage issues, therefore, the film would be in the genre of teenpic. Gillard's (unpublished) criteria for the teenpic genre fit Two Friends perfectly. First, the central characters must be between the ages of 13-19. Louise and Kelly are both 15-year old girls. Second, the central concerns addressed must be of great interest to teenagers. Two Friends covers a wide range of teen issues. First, and most importantly, the film talks about friendship and growing apart. It is a common "rite of passage" that most teens experience. Second, the movie addresses the relationship between parents and teenagers. It is obvious that the film makes a statement about the impact of parents on the way that both of the girls end up. Louise has a fairly stable home life, with an involved mother, while Kelly lives in an unhappy home with a step-father that is overbearing on her mother. Another teen issue the movie addresses is the relationships with the opposite sex. Louise and Kelly differ in their interest and experience with boys. At one point, Louise mentions to her mother that Kelly is "on the pill" and Louise's mother becomes concerned that Kelly is having sex at such a young age. Kelly is also always with a different guy, even bringing one over to Louise's house one night. Finally, whether or not the film is made in a way that appeals to teens influences its placement under the teenpic category. This criteria is an interesting one when it comes to Two Friends because I do not feel like it is particularly "appealing to teens" in an ordinary way. The music used throughout the film is not rock'n'roll, or some sort, that may appeal to most teen, but instead, piano and French horn music. Also, the move is not shot in lively, energetic ways. The shots are very interesting, in a filmography sense, however, the movie moves slowly. However, despite the film not being a typical teen movie, with loud music and lots of action, I believe Two Friends would still be of interest to teenagers from the standpoint that it is a drama and that is tells a story about teen issues that is realistic and honest.


Final Thoughts

Two Friends is a charming little film that has added interest to it given that it is Campion's debut feature film. Not only does the film address teen issues in a realistic way, it does so with creativity. The unique shots and attention to detail make the movie a visual treat, as well as an emotional one. The teenpic genre classification is a solid one, because the movie fits nearly all of the criteria. However, interest in this film goes beyond teenagers. The parental involvement in the film would make it interesting to parents, and to go further, anyone who has went through the teenage years.
While I do believe that it is Campion's recent success that created any interest in this film at all, it is a treat that attention is finally being given to it. The film is an important piece of Australian Cinema.

References

Thank God He Met Lizzie, 1997, dir. Cherie Nowlan
The Piano, 1993, dir. Jane Campion
Two Friends, 1986, dir. Jane Campion
Young Einstein, 1988, dir. Yahoo Serious

Gillard, G. (unpublished). Ten types of Australian film.
Hicks, C. (1996). "Two Friends" review from DesertNews.com. Reviewed on August 2, 1996.
Holden, S. (1996). "Two Friends" review from New York Times. Reviewed on April 24, 1996. Retrieved from nytimes.com/library/film/two_friends.html.
Internet Movie Database- www.imdb.com
Macor, A. (1996). "Two Friends" review from Austinchronicle.com. Reviewed on June 7, 1996.
Movie Review Query Engine- www.mrqe.com
Murray, S. (Ed.) (1995). Australian film 1978-1994: A survey of theatrical features (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Murray, S., Caputo, R., & Thoridnet, C. (1994). Australian Cinema. St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin.
Nelson, R. (1997). "Two Friends" review from Nashvillescene.com. Reviewed on September 22, 1997.
O'Regan, T. (1996). Australian National Cinema. London: Routledge.
Richter, S. (1996). "Two Friends" review from TucsonWeekly.com. Reviewed on October 10, 1996.
Rotten Tomatoes- www.rottentomatoes.com
Schwartz, D. (2003). "Two Friends" review from Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Reviewed on November 4, 2003.
Tyner, A. (1996). Review of "Two Friends" from DVDtalk.com. Reviewed on April 8, 2002.
Ulmer, J. (2002). "Two Friends" DVD review from DigitallyObsessed.com. Reviewed on March 4, 2002. Retrieved from http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showreview.phps?ID=3099.
Ventura, E. (2002). "Two Friends" review from Pop Matters Film. Reviewed on November 3, 2002. Retrieved from http://www.popmatters.com/film/review/t/two_friends.shtml.