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Ladies in Black

Ladies in Black (Bruce Beresford, 2018) wr. Sue Milliken, Bruce Beresford, prod. Allanah Zitserman, Sue Milliken, dp Peter James; Ryan Corr, Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor, Noni Hazlehurst, Vincent Perez, Shane Jacobson, Susie Porter; comedy; release 20Sep18

Angourie Rice won BEST ACTRESS in the AACTA awards, 5 December 2018. Why?

I found this remarkably underwhelming. I can't imagine what it was about this nostalgic women's story that brought Bruce Beresford back to Australia to direct it. Perhaps he wanted to take the opportunity re-create the Sydney of his youth. But that's an expensive enterprise - my heart sank at the first shot of trams in Sydney streets. I couldn't care less how they did it - obviously CGI was involved - but I immediately thought: That's a million dollars right there, for that 60 seconds of film.

Oh, it's a perfectly well-made fillum, and deserves to make money for its investors, and a career for some of its younger cast members, but at my age I found it a waste of an hour or more of what's left of my life.

Julia Ormond and Angourie Rice were both nominated for the Best Actress award at the recent AACTAs. Ormond is woman of a certain age who had a go at a Czech accent and also holding the film's story together, but she seemed merely unattractive and uninteresting to me. I wondered if Beresford is not a good director of actors, as Angourie Rice's performance was also lacking in lustre. She turned 18 on the first of January 2019, and at that age needed a lot of support, particularly from her director. But she looked merely like a not very pretty teenager of no spiritual or emotional interest at all. She actually did the librarian thing of taking off her spectacles and letting her hair down - but it didn't make much difference. The reason she won an award for her (non-) performance must be about industry politics, or something even more trivial - because, at least in my opinion, in this film, she's barely even an actress, let alone Best Actress. (But I don't blame Rice for that; I blame the system within which both she and the director work.)

There were some other actors in this film, but the 1950s was a great leveller, and the whole thing looks as tedious as I remember the 1950s actually were. (Noni Hazelhurst is, sadly, ... old; Susie Porter is there to remind you how exuberant films used to be; and Shane Jacobson is there because he's in every second film - no other reason.)

Synopsis: Adapted from the bestselling novel by Madeleine St John, Ladies in Black is an alluring and tender-hearted comedy drama about the lives of a group of department store employees in 1959 Sydney.

As momentum builds for the September 20 launch of Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black, the distributor and exhibitors are increasingly confident of a sizable opening weekend and a long run sustained by word-of-mouth and repeat business. Don Groves, 'Bruce Beresford's Ladies in Black is dressed for success', IF, 11 September 2018.

This is a lightly romantic, gently uplifting, mostly amusing story for audiences who appreciate films where there are no profanities in the dialogue, no gore splattering on the floor and no orange fireball explosions.  Watch Ladies in Black and be transported back to a rosier era ... Phil Jeng Kane, accessreel.


Garry Gillard | New: 15 August, 2018 | Now: 19 January, 2019