Dear Abe Forsyth (writer-director) and Screen Australia,
Firstly, Congratulations on trying to write a black comedy about the Cronulla riots. It’s brave, really brave. Not just bungee jumping without a rope ‘kinda brave’ or swimming naked, covered in blood in a piranah pool ‘brave’, but maybe combining both and having birthday plans that night ‘brave’.
Secondly, black comedy is hard, really hard. The first rule of comedy is: It has to be funny. Hopefully, more than once or twice in 90 minutes to be considered a comedy. And the second rule is: Someone other than you has to laugh. Again, more than once or twice. Because nothing is worse than comedy where no one laughs. It’s not drama. It’s just rubbish.
You wrote about two gangs – one bunch of Aussies and one of Lebanese – who go looking for trouble the night after the riots. I don’t know, but why not make them funny? I realise Screen Australia don’t really know ethnics, but try playing ‘against’ the stereotypes, which everyone is. Or go really hard and make them soooo over-the-top, they’re funny, like the Stacey bogan pregnant chick was. Or if neither, make them so silly, they don’t know it. But what you had was a series of talking cliches, who were all just stupid. The gay drug dealer, the angry Leb, the angry Leb uncle, the aggro Aussie, another aggro Aussie, the Stoner… All one-dimensional idiots. Try adding a comic obsession that brings them undone. (And it has to be funny, not annoying like the rap-guy). None of them had anything other than the obvious, which made them boring and predictable. They were all just angry bellends with no inner-conflict, and you just let them be that, while reinforcing every stupid stereotype. And the down-syndrome cousin, Evan (Chris Buntin)? He was the only one who shone, but I bet you jammed him in to get funding. And what happened to the asthmatic Maori? He wasn’t the only one that should have hit the cutting room floor.
You had a few moments where there was a hint of irony, like when Stacey made the Aussies buy kebabs. See, that was irony. That was funny. Or when Evan tells them Ned Kelly was an Irish immigrant. Or when the stoner started to talk about the buruecratic jungle of building a Leb-proof wall around Cronulla. And you knew it, because he told us it was ironic. Next time, hold back. If it was Quentin, he would of let the stoner talk, because that’s what they do and they can be funny.
There’s a thought; if you want to do something difficult like black comedy, watch some of the masters, like Quentin, Python, McDonagh, Coen brothers, Southpark, Pizza… there’s so many, and they passed you by. They know how to make dark scenes uncomfortably funny, not just uncomfortable. You either have people being serious in crazy situations or crazy-silly in normal situations. You just had imbeciles being idiots in a crazy situation. Dangerous idiots. The violent scenes were too authentic for real comedy.By the time you got to the slow car chase, I was shaking my head. Maybe you should start with learning about comedy first. And you ignored all the extra characters, like the shock jocks and politicians to focus on these idiots? Obviously satire and social commentary passed you by, although playing jingle bells over news footage shows you know it exists.
I could go on and on, but I don’t want to do Screen Australia’s job for them, but I would like to know who was asleep at the wheel. Whoever green-lighted this should take on a career as a speed hump because they have no idea about film. I’m not going to single out actors as I hope their careers survive this. To be honest, I’m furious that a hot topic as important as this was done so badly and tax-payer dollars were wasted. Rubbish like this will kill our industry faster than George Brandis.
Abe, you might still have a career in film. But if you can convince Screen Australia this was worthy, maybe you should go into sales while you learn your craft, because this was only worth:
Con’s Score: One broken bong.
Con Nats – Talking Arts