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The Australian Cinema's Response to 48 Shades

Critical Uptake

When judging a film to be a success or it is generally based on its success at the box office. But is that really all that’s important? It is also important to also examine toe reviews at the time and what the actual goal of the movie was when it was conceived.

48 Shades was not received well at the Box Office, in the weeks following its release it barely got any attention, This however is in juxtaposition with the results that were gained from its Premiere at the Brisbane International Film Festival. It received glowing reports at the film festival, every screening was sold out and rumour has it that the intensity of the after party was a loud affair. Releasing the film at the Brisbane Film Festival was a good move initially as the film has a very Brisbane flavour that attracted all the locals. So it is no surprise that the welcome at the festival went well. The fact that it didn't stand well alone at the Box Office merely reflects that to a wider audience it wasn't really attractive. In defence at the Box Office, 48 Shades was up against pretty strong competition from both Australian and foreign films. (This is gone into more depth in Box Office Information.)

Reviews of the film at its time of the release seem to belong to either of two groups; a) it was a wonderful, small sweet movie and stands alone or; b) the film was fake, it had no conflict and the characters were weak. This has been said a reflection of an unexperienced director. (Both examples can be seen on the Reviews page of this website). This conflict in opinion is shown quiet plainly in At the Movies Review, where David Stratton loved the movie, praising the setting and the realistic representation of growing up and Margret wouldn't budge from her opinion that it the movie had no substance and that there was no emotional substance to the characters. There is a middle ground of opinions that is generally held by the fans who were devoted to Nick Earls book 48 Shades of Brown and who loyally stand by it no matter what.

In the long run however is that 48 Shades is generally seen as a nice quiet Australian coming-of-age film that paints a nice image of what it’s like to young and in love. In fact in the Making of 48 Shades documentary on the DVD, that’s what Director Daniel Lapaine said he set out to make. He wanted to make a small budget character based film set in one house with no expensive effects or actors. He explains that he fell in love with the gentle naivety of the characters and their realistic struggles through growing up and wanted to represent it on the screen. In the end that what was produced, so how can it be called unsuccessful if it achieved what it set out to do. As Rob Marsala says it is as important story to tell as Bruce Willis diverting a asteroid that’s about to crash into the Earth. So in its own way 48 Shades was a success; just in a very small way.

 

Australian Film and its Values

After its very small success at the cinemas, 48 Shades disappeared for a while as small films normally do. It wasn't until the DVD was released on the 7/2/2007 that interest in the film picked up again. Again mostly fans of the book and Brisbane residents were the main buyers, although because of its beautiful look the film was chosen to be reshown as a part of the Australia on Show festival as an example of Australian film talent. The home grown movie was then splashed against and most of the reviews on the internet come from this period.

As an Australian Coming of Age film it embodies many Australian values and complacencies as a way of life, yet doens’t make an issue of them. Dan’s an ordinary teenager that most of the youth audience will identify with, he values his families and his friend, he's falling in love and isn't quite sure what to do. We've all been at the stage where we try to be someone we are not to fit in. Dan's very act of trying to define his own identity as an adult reflects the nature of the Australian character impulse to do so. He switches from polite school boy to drinking 2nd year law student, and back to the character he thinks Naomi wants’ him to be at the drop of a hat, yet the audience can still identify with him and sympathise in the disasters that follow.

it is not the most typical of Australian coming of age films; many tend to deal with much bigger issues that the character have to work through to find who they are. They tend to delve into cultural or spiritual differences, diverse sexuality, social changes, divorce or even falling in love with your mothers' boyfriend. Yet in the cinematic world, they are hardly more popular that 48 Shades. There doesn't seem to be a large market for coming of age films despite Australia's attraction to making them. So while many coming of ages films tend to represent and define Australian values, sometimes better than other genres, there is no great call for them being produced. They tend to be supported by fans rather than a large target audience. Australia film needs to come up with a new way to show of the diverse identity of values and culture.


Genre

The defining characteristic of Australian Cinema is it’s strive to create the Australian Identity. Since the days of foundation it has been one iconic stereotype to the next; Aussie Battler, Bush Man, Crocodile Hunter, the Bloke etc; It’s become a national past time to create different facets of the Australian character. As a result Coming of age films don't only represent characters, but in a way, the values of Australia itself. 2006 was a big year for Australian cinema with several large films that made considerable headway in the international market. Happy Feet put Australia on the map with wonderfully animated singing penguins while Kokoda re-examined the identity of Australian mateship and reconfirmed our country’s passion for defining Australian identity through blood. All over looked the small film 48 Shades and its own small contribution to examining the Australian character.

48 Shades is a nice little coming of age film. It follows Dan, a teenager standing on the brink of adulthood who doesn't quite fit in either world yet. According to Moran and Veith, the cinematic rite of transition from youth to adult is generally portrayed through the themes of romantic and sexual passion (Pg 181). In the film, Dan is thrown into an unfamiliar environment and immediately falls in love with his auntie’s flatmate Naomi, who already has a boyfriend.  Sporadically through the film is his attempts to impress and distract her away from her own relationship with a boyish sense of naivety and a desire to be who he thinks she wants him to be. He isn't very successful however and the Audience watches as he tries to bridge the gap and become someone who he isn't. This is especially seen in the Party scene where he and his friend Chris assume fake identities in the hope of 'getting some of those uni girls'. It is also the same scene where Dan encounters Imogeon, who, unbeknownst to him, is attempting the same scheme.

48 Shade  Is set in Brisbane and somehow encapsulates that small town feeling. The locations are so incredibly Australian that it creates such a unique atmosphere that it is hard to miss. The huge house on stilts with a veranda, the tropical greenery and glasshouse mountains scenery, the architecture and the bridges. Besiders its atmosphere, it doens't draw atterntion to the fact that it is australian film. In the long run, it doesn't matter, what does matter is Dans journey to realise that he doesn't have to be someone else and that no matter how hard you want something, you dont' alwasy get it. By the end of the film, Dan has a better understanding of relationships and just what growing up is about.

 

 

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