Movie Review for Introducing the Dwights (2007)

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Review #488 of 365
Movie Review of Introducing the Dwights (2007) [R] 105 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.25
Where Viewed: Landmark Esquire Theatre, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 24 July 2007
Time: 6:50 pm
DVD Release Date: 12 February 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: Download now from Brenda Blethyn & Frankie J. Holden - Introducing the Dwights (Music from the Motion Picture) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Cherie Nowlan (Small Claims: White Wedding)
Screenplay by: Keith Thompson (Battle of Long Tan)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Brenda Blethyn (Pride and Prejudice) • Rebecca Gibney ("Tripping Over") • Khan Chittenden (West) • Richard Wilson (The Proposition) • Russell Dykstra (Ned Kelly) • Emma Booth (The Shark Net ) • Katie Wall ("All Saints") • Philip Quast (Caterpillar Wish ) • Frankie J. Holden (Lost and Found)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Also known as Clubland, the film Introducing the Dwights directed by Cherie Nowlan from Keith Thompson's script, will strike a chord with anyone who's the child of divorced parents who are entertainers by trade where their mother is so self-absorbed, really, as to have forgotten what her obligations were toward raising her children in the first place. Or, how about to anyone who's endured a divorce (parent or child). Tim (Khan Chittenden) and Mark (Richard Wilson) are two such children of divorced entertainers Jean (Brenda Blethyn) and John (Frankie J. Holden). Their parents have split up some time ago allowing their egos to come before keeping the family together. Now, both aging and approaching nearly has-been stations in the entertainment world, Jean works in a kitchen in the morning, teaches private instruction in music in the afternoons, and works evenings at Clubland doing her "wife-friendly" stand-up comedy.

"…funny, heart-wrenching, and smart with dashes of illuminating insight into the life far too many of have experienced in some way or another when parents make the choice to separate."
Simultaneously, she dotes on her two sons while seeking every opportunity to trap them in her circumstances. This is hardest on Tim as he is now old enough to move on into his own life, seeking a real, lasting, and emotionally satisfying relationship with a girl (other than his mother). Mark, on the other hand, was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck causing slight mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Therefore, he is bound to a lifetime of being looked after by his mother, who borders on resenting the impact a husband and children have had on her once fabulous career in England before agreeing to follow her husband back to his native Australia. Things get increasingly complicated for all when Tim meets Jill (Emma booth) and her friend Kelly (Katie Wall) one day while helping them move to an apartment of their own. Both are kind of sweet on him as his relatively chaste upbringing has led him to lack much experience with the opposite sex giving him a virginal charm and sweetness they both crave. He, however, gravitates toward Jill in awkward moment after ever-more-awkward moment. Eventually, the two hook up, and Jill takes him down the much-too-slow-for-her path toward losing himself in her and the intoxicating sensation of really falling in love for the first time. Needless to say, Jean, sensing she's about to lose her son to another woman, plays every possible mind game to break them up. Mostly, however, Jean is all about trying to rekindle some semblance of a performance career so that she might be able to afford the type of lifestyle of the rich and famous she's always felt she deserves. Her ex and the boys' father, John, plays a limited role in their lives now as he's moved on to a position as night security manager for a 24-hour grocery store. He still loves his sons desperately, but he realizes that interaction with them often both upsets their mother and brings bag the unwanted baggage of their failed marriage in his mind.

The film is funny, heart-wrenching, and smart with dashes of illuminating insight into the life, when distilled down to essential elements, far too many of have experienced in some way or another when our parents make the choice to separate. Brenda Blethyn absolutely conquers her complex role. Her physicality and emotional investments in Jean create a dazzling performance with all the right moves. Khan Chittenden, also, does a remarkably insightful job in endowing Tim with a raw irresistibility and tender charm. He is devoted to his mother, but, hey, he wants and needs to grow up too. The dynamics of their relationship stands as the pivotal purpose of the film. Jean's got to learn to let go, and Tim's got to make it ok in her mind for her to do so. Achieving this, under the circumstances, may seem an insurmountable challenge for the lad. Meanwhile, Richard Wilson, who endures no mental challenges in real life, took to Mark like a fish to water emboldening a truly beautiful and warm character with humility, humor, and grace. Mark emerges a wonderfully funny and creative soul who exemplifies the charismatic and loving nature of persons who endure these devastating mental challenges and yet, somehow, manage to retain and display most of the best qualities of the human spirit with selfless abandon. Emma Booth, anchors the love rectangle as she tries to understand this new family she's gotten herself into hoping to prove to Jean that she's not really stealing Tim away while also endearing herself to Mark who thinks she's fantastic. Heads will have to roll first, though, and this creates the dramatic tension and reveals the truly anxious and bitter sides of Jean who eventually drinks too much unleashing a truly ugly inner character. But, Tim, angel that he is, will work to get things right by the climax of the film, when all parties gather at the house to try and convince a stark-raving mad Jean not to abandon her life to return to England.

This being the fifth or sixth Australian film I've seen in the past year and a half, I admit that I'm starting to see the unique nature of the style. Films from down under, like their English and French counterparts, are distinctly different in pace, tone, and timbre than their USA equivalents. The first trait they share has to do with a nearly universal tendency to focus on the immediate path of the story rather than on where the story is heading. This gives the films a sense that time stands still and months are passing by in a few minutes of screen time. Moreover, there is a greater sense of realism to the places the people live. Too often, homes featured in USA-made films look they are the result of 10 set-dressers all working at once to make the perfect room. In Australian films, one gets the sense that if you picked a random home on any street in Sydney or Melbourne, you'd find that any home looks exactly like they do in the film. Indeed, this sort of realism spills over into the costuming, the locations, and eventually the characters themselves. It gives the Australian films a more down-to-earth feel to them that places the audience more into the role of voyeur watching the real lives of people unfold. It's easy, in other words, to get absorbed and fall into them more so than with most USA or English films. What they share in common with the French films is that the French are not bothered by unclosed door-endings. Things can be left hanging or undone. The Australian films I've seen all ended with a bit of a lack of real closure. Introducing the Dwights, however, does have a spectacular ending. Only an iron chef could watch without shedding a tear. Still, it leaves many questions unanswered. Sharing most of the now-seemingly traditional Australian film traits, the film is absorbing, yet when it's over, it will leave, as so many of the Australian films do, one wondering, why was this story made into a movie? What did I just sit through? What was so compelling about any of this? Answers will be hard to come by but may lie in the rhythm the films achieve and the seductive draw they pull by offering what seem to be more like the lives, actually, of real people.

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Introducing the Dwights (2007)
Cast Members
Brenda BlethynRebecca GibneyKhan Chittenden
Richard WilsonRussell DykstraEmma Booth
Katie WallPhilip QuastFrankie J. Holden
Cherie Nowlan
Keith Thompson
CD Soundtrack

Review-lite Introducing the Dwights (2007) [max of 150 words]
Brenda Blethyn brings mother and stand-up comic Jean Dwight to life in this bittersweet Australian film, Introducing the Dwights (aka Clubland). Her oldest son, Tim (Khan Chittenden) having reached adulthood, will threaten to upend her world as he begins to fall in true love for the first time with Jill (Emma Booth) casing his mother to worry she's about to lose her eldest son forever. With humor and humility, the film is populated with wonderful characters and actors who've really worked to bring them to life in a potent way. The shortcomings may arise in the sense that, when the film's over, you wonder what was so special about this? Put those feelings aside and just allow yourself to become absorbed in the real-seeming lives of these characters. You may get the same feeling you get in watching a train wreck, and yet it's impossible to turn away.

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