By John Campbell
For better or worse (I lean more often than not to the latter), arts funding bodies in Oz tend to see the traits of our culture as being determined by our landscape. Usually it’s the outback, with which ninety per cent of us (notably those on arts funding bodies) are entirely unfamiliar, to which deference is shown. Sue Brooks, who won everybody’s heart with Japanese Story[ (2003), has returned to Woop-Woop for a lesser, self-conscious movie of deep shallows and tedious repetition. The opening credits are accompanied by an obligatory series of artistic aerial shots that stamp the quintessential Australiana (yawn) on the story. Teenaged Grace (Odessa Young) has bolted from her comfy middle-class home with thousands of dollars she’s pinched from the family safe. She meets a guy on a cross-country bus (remember Brad Pitt in ‘Thelma and Louise’?) who has his way with her then disappears with the dosh. To her parents (Richard Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell), she has ‘vanished’ – but we know as early as the first act that they are all reunited owing to Brooks’s wanting to go over and over every stage of the disappearance with the different perspectives of each person involved. Quite frankly, it gets extremely boring, right up to the unforeseen tragedy. But even then, there is an emotional disconnect between all of the characters and the events that are unfolding around them. Roxburgh, if anything, plays it for laughs as a neurotic, wannabe adulterer who rushes back to a motel office to admit that he’s eaten the Kit-Kat in his room. Dialogue is minimal – some scenes are composed entirely of ‘yeah, righto’, ‘just put it there, mate’ – and too much is left to be read into overworked pregnant silences – how meaningful can a girl watching her father tie up his shoes be? Oh, I get it, he forgot to put on his socks. Art direction is lovely, but it’s a bit like that Sex Pistols song, pretty vacant (though not as good).