‘After that summer nothing would ever be the same again’
MCC231 Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography
By Alysha Tulloch
(Picture taken from official December Boys website: http://wip.warnerbros.com/decemberboys/)
Part one- Film information
Genre: Melodrama/ Romance/ Coming of Age
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity, underage drinking and smoking
Running time: 105 min
Budget: $4,000,000 (estimated)
$46,474 (USA) (30 September 2007)
$32,711 (USA) (23 September 2007)
$15,810 (USA) (16 September 2007)
AUD 551,471 (Australia) (7 October 2007)
AUD 423,381 (Australia) (30 September 2007)
AUD 171,494 (Australia) (23 September 2007)
Key Cast and Crew:
Director: Rod Hardy
Writers: Marc Rosenberg (screenplay)
Michael Noonan (novel)
Producer: Richard Becker
Executive Producers: Hal Gaba
Co-producer: Jay Sanders
Line Producer: Barbra Gibbs
Director of photography: David Connell
Production designer: Leslie Binns
Editor: Dany Cooper
Sound designer: Andrew Plain
Music: Carlo Giacco
Casting: Ann Fay
Maura Fay and Associates
Distributor: Warner Independent
Maps: Daniel Radcliffe
Misty: Lee Cormie
Sparks: Christian Byers
Spit: James Fraser
Bandy: Jack Thompson
Lucy: Teresa Palmer
Fearless: Sullivan Stapleton
Teresa: Victoria Hill
Narrator / Adult Misty: Max Cullen
Mrs. McAnsh: Kris McQuade
Shellback: Ralph Cotterill
Father Scully: Frank Gallacher
Watson: Paul Blackwell
Reverend Mother: Judi Farr
Sister Beatrice: Carmel Johnson
(São Paulo International Film Festival)
(Festival de Cine de Montevideo)
(Internet Movie Database, 2008)
In 2007, December Boys won an Australian Writer’s Guild Award in the category of feature film- adaptation. It has not received any Australian Film Institute nominations or awards.
A large amount of the film was shot on Kangaroo Island, Australia. The film shows no sea travel so the location is not precise. The rocks of the Flinders Chase National Park are also used in some scenes. The cove was shot at a number of places.
Bibliography of interviews:
Daniel Radcliffe, Actor. Found on the Movies Online website: http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_12913.html
Interview conducted by Sheila Roberts, no date was given of the time of the interview, but it shows that it was before the release date and after the film had been made. Interview asks Daniel why he chose the role, his views about the film and what he had to do when playing the role.
- Ron Hardy, Director and Daniel Radcliffe, Actor. Found on You Tube website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5QML0W2I_w
Interview was added to the website on the 17th of September 2007 conducted by KC for YTV. It is mainly with Ron Hardy about what was changed about the film when converting it from a book and the reasons why it was changed. He talks to Radcliffe about the effect that the Harry Potter films have had on this movie and how fans will watch December boys because of the Harry Potter success.
- Daniel Radcliffe, Actor. Found on You Tube website: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ezu3gYkT_WE&feature=related
Interview showed snippets of the film then the interviewer talked to Daniel about it and what he liked about filming December Boys. It also covers the future for Daniel Radcliffe.
Teresa Palmer, Actress. Found About.com website: http://movies.about.com/od/decemberboys/a/december090907.htm
This interview was conducted by Rebecca Murray and talks about how Teresa got into the role of playing Lucy and how she got herself into the character of Lucy. She also talks about what it was like acting along side Daniel Radcliffe and the famous love scene.
Bibliography of Reviews and Discussions:
Review by Paul Arendt found on the BBC Movies website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2007/09/10/december_boys_2007_review.shtml
“December Boys isn’t a poor film as such, but this brand of rheumy-eyed nostalgia needs a lot more substance to be memorable”.
Review by Louise Keller found on the Urban Cinefile website: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=13466
“Haunting and engaging, The December Boys resonates on every level”.
Review by Andrew L Urban also found on the Urban Cinefile website: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=13466
“My only reservation is that the film plays so obviously as an adaptation from a novel, its various elements not always fused into a cohesive whole (e.g. the beautiful stallion and the old fisherman, characters best left within the covers of the book)”.
- Review by Roger Ebert for the Chicago-Sun Times, found using the Movie Review Enquiry Engine:
“There seem to be two movies going on here at the same time, and “December Boys” would have been better off going all the way with one of them”.
- By Jim Schembri, for The Age, found using Movie Review Enquiry Engine:
“Filming largely on Kangaroo Island, Hardy and cinematographer David Connell evoke a soft-edged, romanticised landscape that perfectly matches the bittersweet emotions that course through the story, and which lead to a pleasing, moving present-day resolution”.
- By Jeannette Catsoulis for the New York Times found using the Movie Review Enquiry Engine:
“As cart wheeling nuns frolic on the sand and visions of the Virgin Mary glow beneath the waves, the movie congeals into a soggy, symbolic mess. As for Mr. Radcliffe, his acting is fine. It’s his career planning that needs some work”.
For more reviews and discussions:
There is a great deal of information available on the internet about December Boys. There is a large amount about the book and even more about the film. A lot of the information that is found through search engines is general information about the film, reviews and commentary of the film. It was difficult to find interviews with actors other than Daniel Radcliffe. A large majority of the films reviews are good reports of the film. However, there are, like all films, bad reports. Some of the best websites I found information from are:
- The Internet Movie Database - http://www.imdb.com
- Urban Cinefile- http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Ar-ticle_-ID=13466
- Australian Film Commission- http://www.afc.gov.au/
- Movie Review Query Engine- http://www.mrqe.com/
- The official December Boys website is: http://wip.warnerbros.com/decemberboys/
I obtained all this information from the internet. I chose the internet as my main source as it has a wide array of data. I have also noticed that the internet has been a popular way to publish reviews, interviews and information about the film. Along with the internet I looked at the special features of the DVD which helped me understand more about the cinematography of the film.
Part two: Critical Review of Film and its Literature
Critical review of the plot:
December Boys is a coming of age, romantic melodrama based on the novel by Michael Noonan. Set in the sixties, it is about four orphan boys: Maps, Misty, Spit and Spark, all born in the same month growing up in a Catholic convent in the Australian outback. The boys come to the realisation that the day they get adopted may never come. As a special treat, the Reverend Mother sends the orphans on a seaside holiday. This holiday is far from what they expected. They meet Teresa and Fearless, a young couple who would make the perfect parents. The story is done in first person narration by Misty as an adult and his memories of the holiday. He talks about how the boys all sabotaged each others efforts to be chosen for adoption by Teresa and Fearless only to then discover the real meaning of what it is to have a family. The film is shot on location in South Australia. It shows Daniel Radcliffe’s next major role outside of the character of Harry Potter.
Director Ron Hardy’s heartfelt, if somewhat tepid; adaptation of Michael Noonan’s coming-of-age novel harks back to the days of the Australian New Wave, when films about isolation, loneliness and the existential dilemmas of life on an island continent captured the imagination of the world. That’s not to suggest that this is in any way a comparable work, but it’s competent and effective enough that fans of those earlier classics are likely to find themselves drawn in by the shadowy overlap.I personally enjoyed the film December Boys. The casting of the children and also of the adults done by Rod Hardy is excellent. Lee Cormie’s performance was outstanding and you can tell he is going to do well in his acting career. He immediately drew the audience to him with his age and portrayed maturity for his age. My only criticism of the film however would be the strange mystical interaction Misty has with the Virgin Mary and the visions of the nuns he gets cart wheeling on the beach. The movie is quite serious and dramatic and when things like this come in to play, I feel it makes the story loose credibility. This bittersweet story is a simple film that leaves the viewer, like the characters, with great gratitude for life, along with the knowledge that life does not always go your way.
(Major, Wade. 2007)
Genre and Australian aspects of the film:
It is hard to put December Boys into one genre as it is, as with many Australian films, associated with other genres. The critics have placed it in the genre of a drama however I think it is an uneven blend of a Melodrama, Romance and Coming of Age film. The film is above all a Coming of Age story as it shows the four boys growing up and learning about life (the whole journey the boys went through). The Melodramatic side of the film can be seen by the tragic revelations and Misty’s visions of the nuns. Romance is obvious in Maps’ relationship with Lucy. The Romance of the film is strange, as Lucy is the on who seduces Maps (girl seduces boy instead of in the typical romantic film where the boy seduces the girl). I think the three genres blend in well and have helped to create a great Australian film.
The Australian aspects of this film are shown obviously by the settings and also by the accents of the boys. Daniel Radcliffe has put on the Australian accent relatively well but if you listen closely you can tell he is not originally Australian, which is no surprise to anyone who knows about or has seen Harry Potter. In December Boys, there is no obvious larrikins or conventional Australian characters (as seen in other Australian films for example- “The Castle” (Rob Stich,1997) and “Kenny” (Clayton Jacobson,2006). However, the Australian culture is shown quite a bit through the use of all the beach scenes. The images of the Australian outback also contribute to the Australian aspects of the film. The cinematography I enjoyed the most of the film was the helicopter shot of the boys driving to the holiday. This image showed the rich red desert and the boys in the car with their legs hanging out the side, this image symbolised the freedom the boys had and the journey they were about to go on. The outback is a reoccurring theme throughout the move as the red, dry desert is shown when the boys are driving to the seaside and the boys constantly bring up that the only time you can go fishing is when it rains. Teresa also asks about it while at the seaside, therefore it is a consistent aspect of the film. Therefore, December Boys is easily identified as an Australian feature film, however having actors like Daniel Radcliffe (who is not from Australia and many people know he is not) can make audiences who have not seen the movie think it is from elsewhere.
General Position of Australian Film and Filmic Value due to the uptake of December Boys:
Unlike many Hollywood films, Australian ones are not as largely funded which in turn can make the Australian public less accepting of the films and make them more inclined to watch American films with larger budgets and very well paid, highly trusted actors. However, the inclusion of Daniel Radcliffe in this film has boosted its reputation and the die hard Harry Potter fans and other people are more inclined to see it because he is such a well known actor.
December Boys deals with a theme that is not often explored in Australian Cinema and that is adoption. The importance of family, like all movies from all over the world is explored; however it is rare to find movies taken from an orphan’s point of view and about adoption. I like this alternative storyline (even thought it is taken from a book) and believe that it has contributed a different side to Australian Cinema and helped to broaden the horizons for Australian films.
The film in relation to prior work of: the Director, Main Actor and the Producer:
Rod Hardy (Director):
Rod Hardy has previously worked on mainly television series and not many movies. It is strange however as he has only worked on a few episodes of the television series that he has directed. Some of his most recent work is shows such as: “Burn Notice” in 2007 (one episode), five episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” in 2004-2007 and two episodes of “The Mountain” in 2004. He has also contributed to series such as “Touching Evil”, “The Practice”, “Jag” and many more (see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0465436 for more). Rod Hardy has received a Western Heritage Award in 1999 for “Two in Texas” (1998).
Daniel Radcliffe (Main Actor):
This actor made his acting debut in his role as Harry Potter in the Harry Potter films. Prior to December Boys, he made, and was very busy making the “Harry Potter” films, but also appeared in “The Tailor of Panama” (Mark Pendel, 2001). Since making December Boys, Radcliffe has acted in “My Boy Jack” (John Kipling, 2007) and is in the process of starring in: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, has started pre-production for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” and has announced that he will be acting in “Journey” by Dan Eldon which is to be filmed in 2009. Daniel has been nominated for many awards and won a Golden Apple and a National Movie Award in the United Kingdom.
I think that it is a little strange seeing Daniel Radcliffe play this role as he is so well known as Harry Potter and when you see the young, innocent boy who we all see as magical Harry having sex for the first time and smoking, it is hard to believe. However, Radcliffe is an excellent actor and has played this part well and has to get himself out of the young Harry Potter role to further his acting career and December Boys is a great movie to start to show this maturity as an adult.
Richard Becker (Producer):
December Boys is the most recent film that Becker has produced. Prior to this film, he was the executive producer for: “Subterano” in 2003, “American Waitress” in 2002 and “The Real Macaw” in 1998. Before these films he was the executive producer in television shows such as “Rhapsody in Bloom” in 1998 and Love in Ambush in 1997. He has also produced many more movies and television shows. (For more of these go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0465436).
Box Office information:
In 2007, the total box office for Australia was $895.4 million which was a 3.2 percent increase from 2006. In the year that December Boys was made, there were 314 films released onto the Australian market. Twenty five of these films were Australian. “These twenty five Australian films earned $36.0 million (4 percent) of Australia’s total box office in 2007” (Australian Government Film Commission, 2008). A large amount of the films that are released into Australian cinemas spend between $10,000 and $3 million on advertising, publicity and print costs.
- Australian Government Film Commission. 2008. 2007 Box Office Backgrounder.http://www.afc.gov.au/downloads/pubs/2007bobackgrd.pdf (Accessed 28th March 2008).
- Major, Wade. 2007. December Boys. http://0-proquest.umi.com.prospero.m-urdoch.edu.au/pqdweb?index=6&did=1357856091&SrchMode=1&sid=4&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1207468219&clientId=20829 (Accessed 1st April 2008).
- Internet Movie Database. 2008. December Boys. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0465436/ (Accessed 28th March 2008).