Spotswood: Critical Review and Bibliography
“He's about to teach big business that there's more to life than the bottom line.” -Tagline
Part One: Film Information
List of Key Cast and Crew:
Director: Mark Joffe
Script Writers: Max Dann
Cinematographer: Ellery Ryan
Producers: Richard Brennan
Original Music: Ricky Fataar
Film Editor: Nicholas Beauman
Production Designer: Chris Kennedy
Production Management: Leigh Ammittzboll (unit manager)
Michael S. McLean (unit manager)
Bernadette O’Mahony (production manager)
Adam Park (executive in charge of production)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins…Errol Wallace
Alwyn Kurts………Mr. Ball
Bruno Lawrence…..Robert, Carey’s Father
John Walton………Jerry Finn
Rebecca Rigg…….Cheryl Ball
Toni Collette……..Wendy Robinson
Russell Crowe……Kim Barry
Australia: 23 January 1992
Sweden: 24 April 1992
Czechoslovakia: July 1992 (Karlovy Vary Film Festival)
USA: July 1992
Germany: April 1993 (video premiere)
Box Office Figure:
The gross Australian box office earned in 1992 for Spotswood was 1,418,000.
$101,307 (USA) (sub-total)
AUD 1,505,684 (Australia) ( 1992) (sub-total)
- AFI Award (1992) - Best Achievement in Cinematography: Ellery Ryan
- AFI Award (1992) - Best Achievement in Costume Design: Tess Schofield
- AFI Award (1992) - Best Achievement in Production Design: Chris Kennedy
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992)- Best Achievement in Editing: Nicholas Beauman
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992) - Best Actor in a Lead Role: Ben Mendelsohn
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992) - Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Alwyn Kurts
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992) - Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Toni Collette
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992) - Best Film: Timothy White, Richard Brennan, Marie-Pascale Osterrieth
- (Nominated) AFI Award (1992) - Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted: Max Dann, Andrew Knight
- (Nominated) Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1991) - Crystal Globe: Mark Joffe
Bibliography Details: Interviews:
Urban, Andrew. ‘The Making of Spotswood.’ in Cinema Papers, May 1991: No. 83, pp. 5-7.
“Basically I aim to engage the audience in an unusual and entertaining way.” - (Mark Joffe, director)
Smith, Margaret. ‘Cosi.’ in Cinema Papers, Aug. 1995: No. 015, pp. 5-8.
Margaret Smith interviews Mark Joffe, the director of Spotswood, about his upcoming film Cosi. Spotswood was mentioned a few times throughout the interview, mentioning a few of the actors such as Ben Mendelsohn and Toni Collette.
Bibliography Details: Reviews:
Quinn, Karl. ‘Spotswood.’ Cinema Papers, Mar.-Apr. 1992: pp. 65-66.
“Spotswood utilizes the full array of filmic possibilities, from set design, through lighting and photography to acting, music and direction, in order to bring a potentially very simple story to a rich fulfilment.”
Canby, Vincent. ‘Anthony Hopkins vs. Friendly Inefficiency.’ New York Times, 6 Nov. 1992.
“Demonstration of how a happy community of eccentric little people triumph over, and even convert, the forces of darkness.”
Ebert, Roger. ‘The Efficiency Expert.’ The Chicago Sun-Times, 6 Nov. 1992.
“It's interesting, the way Hopkins' face relaxes as the movie continues and his character learns, perhaps for the first time, that time and motion studies are about people, not facts.”
Kemply, Rita. ‘The Efficiency Expert.’ Washington Post, 6 Nov. 1992.
“An innocuous homage to old-fashioned corporate paternalism”
http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/14/1423 -International Movie Database
“A quaint, gratifying little film about discovering/rediscovering true, basic human needs from the vantage point of two separate generations and social classes.”
http://www.timeout.com/film/75186.html -Time Out Online
“It is genuinely funny, thanks to deft characterisations, a wry eye for the absurdities of working life, and a nice line in throwaway visual gags and verbal non-sequiturs.”
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/efficiency_expert/ -Rotten Tomatoes
“By Australian standards, this has a stellar cast - Toni Collette, Russell Crowe and Ben Mendelsohn, all very young, topped off with Anthony Hopkins.”
http://geo.channel4.com/film/reviews/film.jsp?id=108621 –Channel 4 film reviews
“Hopkins heads the cast of this highly quirky, very funny film that joins the ranks of original, likeable comedies to have emerged from Down Under in recent years.”
Part 2: Critical Review of Film and its Literature
Spotswood is a film about a small moccasin factory, Ball’s, which has been struggling to make a profit for about a decade. The film is set in the late 1960’s in the city of Spotswood, a suburb of Melbourne. Mr. Ball (Alwyn Kurts), the owner of the factory, is a kind-hearted man who has been trying his hardest to keep the company open. He even resorted to selling some of his own assets to keep the factory afloat. Afraid that he could not keep the company running much longer required him to bring in a cold, harsh efficiency expert, Errol Wallace (Anthony Hopkins), to modernize the factory.
Errol Wallace’s first look around the factory made him think that it could never be saved. It was a run-down place with lazy workers. Their lunch break turned into tea time where women gossiped and men talked about their social clubs. They walked around in moccasins and furry jackets and somehow made shoes in the process. He mentions to his wife when he returns home that night that “it reminds me of my grandfather’s house, only my grandfather isn’t there.”
Wallace asks a young boy, Carey (Ben Mendelsohn), to be his assistant. Wallace thought the juvenile would ump at the opportunity to move up in the factory hierarchy, when in fact Carey only accepted his offer because he would share a desk with Ball’s daughter, and “famous model” to be, Cheryl (Rebecca Rigg). As Wallace’s assistant, Carey went around recording the effectiveness of each worker. With Carey’s numbers, the inadequate kept record books, and the financial state the factory was in Wallace determined the only way the factory could stay open was to reduce the amount of employees and increase the productivity of the left over workforce.
There is also a romantic element to the film. Kim, the sleazy salesman who works for the factory, is dating Cheryl, the daughter of Mr. Balls. Carey becomes infatuated with Cheryl and does anything to try to go on a date with her. Wendy (Toni Collette), Carey’s faithful friend, is there by his side when he is obsessing over Cheryl even though she has feelings for him. Carey figures out in the end that Wendy is the best thing for him.
During the film you also find out about Wallace’s life outside the factory. His relationship with his wife is not strong; she looks as if she is thinking about leaving him. The cause of this is most likely because of his long work hours. He is also working for Durmack’s with a partner who only looks out for what’s in his best interest; he does not care about any of the employees that he says need to go. His life seems like a complete mess.
Wallace tries not to start relationships with the workers so that later he will not feel guilty for firing the employees who rely on their job as their source of income. One group of eccentric workers try to befriend Wallace because they think he is there to help advance their factory by bringing his foreign ideas. In the article, ‘The making of Spotswood’, Tim White, producer of the film, states, “Being non-Australian reinforces the idea that he [Wallace] is an outsider. Being an alien also assists in establishing the notion of there being a certain naiveté in the post-war, mid-‘60s Australia, when anything from the outside seemed like a good idea at the time” (pp. 6). The men offer to fix his car when it broke down. One of the guys broke his finger while fixing it and is in need of a replacement for the men’s slot car racing team. They ask for Wallace’s help and although he is reluctant he accepts their offer. It was in this scene where Wallace begins to doubt his decision of laying off all of these workers. After winning the important championship game Wallace was on cloud nine with the rest of the men, it wasn’t until later that the men would see why Wallace was truly came to the factory.
After Mr. Ball reluctantly signs the pink slips to let his employees, and trusted friends go, many people were out of the only job they have ever known. After the firing, Wallace attends a cocktail party at Durmack’s to celebrate the ending of the dispute, in which Ball’s factory lost. He snapped at his partner telling him what they did was not right. He knew these people personally and realized that these people were good, innocent people that deserved to keep their jobs. Their job is a place they enjoy being, an escape from their meagre home life and they are justified to keep it.
He then goes onto save the factory by suggesting that all the workers could stay if they manage the company as a co-operative venture with workers as owners. All but one worker was hired back, Kim, the sleazy salesman. He replaced Wallace as a Durmack’s employee. Wallace possibly saved his marriage with his actions because his wife looked very proud of him. It is a typical happy ending where the once cold, stern character turns out to be the local hero.
The overall theme of this film is the small, tight knit, family of employees triumph over the corporate businessman. Wallace rediscovers himself when his business expertise is put to the test. The lower working class shows him the loving touch of humanity and he discovers that they are living their lives the way he wants too. Working is not all about money, but about treating people with respect and having dignity.
Critical Uptake of the Film:
According to the Australian Film Commission, Spotswood was the number five top grossing feature film in 1992 and brought in $1,418,000 to the Australian box office. The International Movie Database records that the box office gross income reaches $1,505,684. The numbers prove that people wanted to watch the film. The Australian Film Commission also stated that Spotswood was the in the top 100 Australian films earning more than US$100,000 gross at the US box office, it ranked 88th. Critics enjoyed watching Anthony Hopkins in a heart-warming comedy, which was a genre Hopkins had not yet tapped into.
Director: Mark Joffe:
Mark Joffe, a Russian native, has been directing television shows and numerous feature films over the past three decades. He seems to enjoy directing a wide variety films. Spotswood, Cosi, the Man Who Sued God, and The Matchmaker are a few of his films that fall under the comedy/drama genre. Other films that he has directed such as Grievous Bodily Harm and Carson’s Law are crime films. He also directed an action film, Watch the Shadows Dance.
Previous to Spotswood, Joffe directed a couple different television shows. Carson’s Law was his first TV series that began in 1983. In 1985 he moved onto the television show, The Fast Lane. He then directed The Great Bookie Robbery, a 1986 television series mini. The films that Joffe directed before Spotswood included, Watch the Shadows Dance (1986), Grievous Bodily Harm (1988), and Shadow of the Cobra (1989). He then directed More Winners: Boy Soldiers in 1990.
Joffe won an AFI Award in 1987 for Best Achievement in Direction in a Mini Series for The Great Bookie Robbery shared with Marcus Cole. In 1991, he also won a peace prize award at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival for More Winners: Boy Soldiers (TV). In 1992, he was nominated for a Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for Spotswood.
Spotswood was a successful film that built onto the already existing credibility Joffe had as a director. It also was the start of talented and well known actress, Toni Collette. After Spotswood, Joffe directed another feature film named Cosi. Cosi landed an outstanding cast with many well known Australian actors. Toni Collette, who had just had her breakout role in Muriel’s Wedding (P.J Hogan, 1994), Rachel Griffiths, who had also been in Muriel’s Wedding and Barry Otto who was in Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, 1994). He also directed The Matchmaker (1997) and The Man Who Sued God (2001) after directing Spotswood.
Spotswood in Relation to Australian Cinema:
Spotswood is an important film in Australian Cinema because it introduced the actress, Toni Collette. She has been in not only big Australian feature films, such as Muriel’s Wedding, Cosi, and Dirty Deeds (David Caesar 2002), but has also been in American feature films like The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan 1999), In Her Shoes (Curtis Hanson 2005), and Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris 2006).
Spotswood did have some Australian qualities. The movie was a quirky sort of comedy. Carey’s sidekick often said funny side remarks, for example, he mentions that he is the good looking one of the two and that is why he gets the girls, or he met a girl when he ran over her cat. Another thing that makes this film especially Australian is that it relates to the time in Australia where modernization was becoming more popular.
This film could definitely fit under more than one genre. It is a comedy, a drama, and has some romantic aspects. Comedy is the main genre I would classify it under, a social comedy to be more precise. According to Albert Moran and Errol Vieth, authors of Film in Australia an Introduction, a social comedy is when “the central figure enters another world where conventions, behaviours, and even language are different so that there is a clash of codes and social conventions” (pp. 59). When Wallace enters the world of the factory workers he doesn’t know how to handle it. It is as if he has time warped. He was part of the new modern world, while these employees seemed as if they were living in the past. Their behaviours were certainly not the same and the conventions in which they ran a business were complete opposites. This type of situation can often turn humorous because the main character is so different that everything he/she does clashes with the social norms of the group they have entered.
1. Moran, Albert, and Errol Vieth. Film in Australia an Introduction. New York:
Cambridge UP, 2006. 59.
2. Quinn, Karl. ‘Spotswood.’ Cinema Papers, Mar.-Apr. 1992: pp. 65-66.
3. "Release Success of Australian Production." Australian Film Commission. 23 Apr.
4. "Spotswood." International Movie Database. 23 Apr. 2007 <www.imdb.com>.
5. Urban, Andrew. ‘The Making of Spotswood.’ in Cinema Papers, May 1991: No.
83, pp. 5-7.
Critical Review By: Kelsey Gustafson