Strange Bedfellows

Criticism, Genre and Reception

Tara Kelly
MED 231
Australian Cinema
April 2005

PART ONE – FILM INFORMATION

Lead Actors:
Paul Hogan as Vince Hopgood
Paul began on Australian television as comic relief on A Current Affair, and quickly progressed to having his own show on Channel 9 in 1973; The Paul Hogan Show. His first dramatic role was in the television mini series The ANZACs and from there he went on to become a worldwide success with Crocodile Dundee, which he created, co-wrote and performed in. He has been internationally recognised for Crocodile Dundee, including winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor, being nominated for an Oscar (for Best Screenplay), and Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay BAFTA nominations.

Michael Caton as Ralph Williams
Michael has had a long film and television career, including working on The Castle, Knucklemen, Hoodwink, Monkey Grip, The Interview and The Animal. He has appeared in many Australian television series including Chances, Paradise Beach, Blue Heelers and All Saints. Michael currently hosts Hot Property and Hot Auction on Channel 7.

Glynn Nicholas as Eric
Glynn Nicholas has starred in films and television series since the 80’s, including The Pirates of Penzance, Freedom, For the Term of His Natural Life, and the Glynn Nicholas Show, which along with Tuesday Night Live: The Big Gig, he was a writer as well as an actor.

Pete Postlethwaite as Russell McKenzie
Pete is an internationally recognised actor, appearing in films and television series such as Romeo + Juliet, Distant Voices, Still Lives, Treasure Island and In the Name of the Father, for which he received an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He has also guest starred in several television programs such as Coronation Street and The Fat.

Supporting Actors:
Paula Duncan as Yvonne Philpot
Monica Maughan as Faith
Kestie Morassi as Carla
Shane Withington as Father Xavier Delaney
Roy Billing as Fred Coulston
Allan Cassell as Stan Rogers
Stewart Faichney as Sergent Jack Jenkins

Production Credits:
Dean Murphy – Director and Writer
Dean wrote his first film at the age of 17 – Just Cruising, which held a 12 week screening tour around Victoria. In 1994 he wrote, directed and produced Lex and Rory at the age of 21. Dean later directed Muggers in 1998, which was sold internationally. In 2002 Dean produced Till Human Voices Wake Us, which was distributed by Paramount Pictures in USA. Strange Bedfellows is his most recent film in which he directed, co-wrote and was also executive producer.

Stewart Faichney – Co-writer and Actor (Sergent Jack Jenkins)
Stewart has been in the film and television industry for over 30 years and has written, produced or starred in many projects including writing comedy sketches for Ted Hamilton’s Musical World, and producing The Upstairs Neighbour which has won several awards in USA. Stewart has acted in films such as Till Human Voices Wake Us and Muggers, and has also appeared in television series including Blue Heelers, Cop Shop and Homicide.

Roger Lanser – Director of Photography
Roger has worked on several films in his 25 year career in the film industry, including five films with Kenneth Branagh which earned 4 Oscar Nominations, 2 BAFTAS and 1 Golden Globe Award.

Production Company – Instinct Entertainment
Executive Producers – Thomas Augsberger, Shana Levine, Dean Murphy
Associate Producer – Stewart Faichney
Producer – Nigel Odell, David Redman
Music – Dale Cornelius
Film Editor – Peter Carrodus
Casting – Stewart Faichney
Production Design – Ralph Moser
Costume Design – Jeanie Cameron
Sound Design – Scott Findlay, Michael Slater

Specifications:
Classification – Comedy
Run Time – 101 minutes
Rating – M
Distributor – Becker
Setting – Yackandandah, VIC and Sydney NSW

Australian Release Date: 22nd April 2004

Box Office Figures:
Opening - $1,093,404
Total Gross - $4,816,495

Links and Reviews:

Review by Rich Cline – Shadows On The Wall
http://www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk/04/vid-c.htm#stra

Review by Clint Morris – Moviehole
http://www.moviehole.net/reviews/1207.html

Review by Louise Keller – Urban Cinefile
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=8763&s=Reviews

Review by Luke Buckmaster – In Film Australia
http://www.infilm.com.au/reviews/sbedfellows.htm

Review by David Haviland – Reel Talk
http://www.reeltalkreviews.com/browse/viewitem.asp?type=review&id=1206

Review by Andrew Staker – Rotten Tomatoes
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/click/movie-1144282/reviews.php?critic=all&sortby=default&page=2&rid=1274814

Review by Peter Thompson – Sunday Online Australia
http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/film_reviews/article_1531.asp

Interview with Dean Murphy by Clint Morris – Moviehole
http://www.moviehole.net/news/3567.html

Rotten Tomatoes.com
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10002633-strange_bedfellows/

Internet Movie Database
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0360032/

Strange Bedfellows Official Website
http://www.strangebedfellows.com.au/

PART TWO – CRITICAL REVIEW

Strange Bedfellows is an Australian comedy set in the small Victorian town of Yackandandah, starring Paul Hogan as Vince and Michael Caton as Ralph. Vince is a divorced cinema owner, whose ex-wife, along with a ‘sleazy big city accountant’ leaves him with bad tax debts. He then finds out that in a bid for some more votes, the Government has introduced a tax scheme for same-sex couples so that they can enjoy the tax benefits of married couples. Vince, ever the bright idea’s man, convinces his best friend Ralph - the local mechanic who fixes cars in exchange for tomatoes, that they could pose as a gay couple and not only would they save money, but no one would ever know!

Of course, as the setting is in a small country town, it is virtually impossible to keep a secret and within days of filing a claim as a same-sex couple, the whole town thinks that the two friends are gay, which provides an avenue for many humorous instances, for example the priest reprimanding Ralph and Vince saying ‘remember boys, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ To add to their troubles, the tax department sends an inspector out to assess the validity of their claim. Yackandandah has only one homosexual – Eric the hairdresser (Glynn Nicholas), so they spy on him to try and learn some gay characteristics, unfortunately as it turns out, Eric is using his gay ruse for business (as he says, who would want a straight male hairdresser?) and to lure some of the women in town. Ralph and Vince bribe Eric with photo’s of his ‘activities’ to teach them to walk, talk and think gay. Both men take Eric’s advice to walk like a penguin a bit too seriously and end up parading around Ralph’s shed looking completely ridiculous. Eventually Eric decides that his efforts are just not enough and sends them to Sydney to absorb some real gay culture.

In Sydney they visit a nightclub and go shopping for some ‘gay’ outfits – hotpants for Vince and some ‘barely there’ leather pants for Ralph. They meet some new gay friends and Vince even manages to star in a ‘Priscilla’ style cabaret. At the end of the night Vince and Ralph seem to be more accepting of homosexuals than they were initially, with Ralph even dryly commenting ‘The worst thing about all this isn’t that people think I’m gay, its that people think I’m going out with you!’ Ralph also has to deal with meeting his daughter’s new boyfriend Peter, who turns out to be female, named Peta, and trying to keep his ‘homosexuality… only on paper’ a secret from them both, which of course, is a hopeless effort in such a small town. A funny conversation takes place when one of the friends from Yackandandah calls Ralph while he is in the Sydney nightclub and becomes very worried when hearing comments like ‘where’s your boyfriend’ etc in the background. This theme of the local people not understanding or accepting homosexuality runs throughout the film until Ralph makes a touching speech about love and mateship in the final scenes of the film, which seems to set everyone’s minds at ease.

In most of the reviews I have found on Strange Bedfellows, the film was received quite positively – something I found very interesting and surprising, as I personally wouldn’t have rated it as highly as most did. I found many of the jokes and situations very exaggerated, to the point of not being funny, while the entire film jumped from one stereotype to the next and lacked in originality. In terms of box office takings, Strange Bedfellows fared considerably better than many other Australian films, ranking number 38 of 425 in takings according to moviemarshal.com.

Strange Bedfellows does not have much of an online presence besides the multiple reviews (many listed above.) It was actually quite difficult to find information on the film, the Strange Bedfellows Official Website and IMDB.com were my main sources of information – everything else seemed to be some sort of gay matchmaking service! Strange Bedfellows is still quite a recent film (2004) and so I couldn’t find any academic or critical essays on it, as opposed to a more older and popular film such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I was unable to find much information on the actual production of the film, such as the location of filming or the budget, though I did discover that the town of Yackandandah does exist and part of the film was located there. I found all my information on the cast and crew members via the Strange Bedfellows Official Website, and IMDB. The most helpful website (or collection of websites) is the MED231 Australian Cinema WebCT site, which directed me to the box office information, IMDB, UrbanCinefiles and RottenTomatoes.com.

Strange Bedfellows would be the most well known and received film by Director Dean Murphy, his first major Australian film, Lex and Rory and subsequent film Muggers had reasonably low box office takings. Paul Hogan is perhaps most well known for his 1986 film Crocodile Dundee, still the most successful Australian film yet in terms of box office takings, topping the charts at over $47million and Michael Caton will forever be known to most of Australia as Darryl Kerrigan, his humorous character in The Castle.

Comedy is basically something that makes you laugh, and there are several different types of comedy, though all have a basis in incongruity – bringing two elements together which do not seem to belong together (Gillard, 2005). There are many different types of comedy, including visual humour, situation comedy, comedian comedy, satire, verbal humour and musical humour. The entire theme of Strange Bedfellows could not be described in any other way than incongruent – Paul Hogan and Michael Caton are the perfect choice for two people who definitely don’t belong together. During one scene in the Sydney nightclub, one of their new gay friends comments that they make an odd couple, which Ralph replies ‘well we’re poofs aren’t we… doesn’t get much odder than that!’ Strange Bedfellows thrives on its satirical element – satire being humour derived from irony, sarcasm or wit. Michael Caton’s character in The Castle is purely satirical, making fun of the typical Australian working class family, and as Ralph in Strange Bedfellows, he again uses satire in his role as a small minded, small town mechanic. Much of the film’s amusing content is the perceptions of homosexuality by the towns people, and in the beginning of the film, Ralph is just as bad – they say the word ‘gay’ in hushed voices and instantly view homosexuality very negatively with slang such as ‘poofters’ thrown about liberally. Eric the hairdresser is also a satirical character – a heterosexual man virtually being forced into acting gay for the sake of his business, as no one would go to a straight male hairdresser!

Visual humour is also a major component of the film, which many comedic moments being derived from Vince and Ralph trying to act gay – they way they walk, dress and even dance! The visual humour element often goes slightly over the top, with scenes such as members of the fire fighting squad unable to handle the hose and being thrown about, due to the strong pressure of the hose, or Ralph’s new home makeover, complete with gay men’s magazines and rainbow flags on the walls.

In my opinion, Australian comedies are particularly different to American or British comedies as satire is always a major component of the film. Stereotypical Australian characters – the bogan, the working class ‘hero,’ and the ‘ocker’ are just a few examples of characters in a typical Australian comedy film. Thunderstruck (Darren Ashton, 2003) is a prime example of an Australian comedy with each main character revealing a different stereotype – the bogan ADCD fan, the loser (almost always played by Stephen Curry!) the druggy etc. Even the most minor characters, such as John Doyle – the service station owner in Thunderstruck make a satirical crack at an Australian stereotype, in this case, the ocker (suitably dressed in footy shorts and blue singlet.)

Strange Bedfellows also has certain ties with the classic; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, as both deal with homosexuality, and acceptance (or lack) of it. Parts of Priscilla… are set in small towns, and show the locals reacting negatively to the presence of drag queens in their quiet lifestyles. Strange Bedfellows also follows the reaction of small town residents to gay people, with different results – the Priscilla queens are from the city and are definitely treated as outsiders, while Ralph and Vince are locals – have lived in Yackandandah all their lives and so have to deal with rumours and reputation instead of confrontation, which certainly provides a more humorous arena as we see the priest, the local gossip and fellow fire fighters struggle to accept and believe what they are hearing.

Strange Bedfellows is a comedy film about a serious subject – the acceptance of homosexuality into the community, but thankfully comedy prevailed throughout the film and it didn’t give way to many serious moments. Paul Hogan and Michael Caton do a believable job of acting as an incompatible gay couple, and this ensures a few good laughs. Although it wouldn’t fit into my top ten list of films, it is worth watching (perhaps only just once) as it is a good example of an Australian comedy film, and a very good introduction into the characters of typical Australian comedies.

References

Lecture 8, ‘Comedy’ Garry Gillard, MED231 Australian Cinema at Murdoch University Semester One 2005

Movie Marshal.com available through WebCT
www.moviemarshal.com/idg-australianfilms.html.

Rotten Tomatoes.com
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10002633-strange_bedfellows/

Internet Movie Database
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0360032/

Strange Bedfellows Official Website
http://www.strangebedfellows.com.au/