Friday, October 31, 2014

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell

Couple of spoilers here...
This isn't a blockbuster movie, although it has some exciting go-kart racing early on. It's a small-scale, New Zealand film focused on a family to whom a tragedy (almost) happens.

Gazza Snell (blustering Australian actor William McInnes) is your self-made man with a cleaning business, but his big interest in life is getting his sons into professional car racing. The boys are both talented, but the hobby is eating up funds and Gazza's drawer is full of unpaid bills. There's also a small and undeveloped sub-plot about him running for the local council. He certainly has dreams, but he doesn't have much of a practical outlook.

His wife, Gail, (Robyn Malcolm, in a uncharacteristically subdued mode) is long-suffering, but when the major crisis hits the family - the younger boy is put into a coma after a track accident - she explodes.

Their older boy (Josh McKenzie) has his life run by his father. It's not that he doesn't enjoy racing, nor that he's no good at it, it's just that it's really his father's dream he's living, not his own.

The direction and particularly the pacing of the movie is excellent: the opening sequence establishes the characters quickly, the background of the family, and a good deal more...before the accident. From then on the movie takes a darker tone, with Gazza heavy-handedly crashing his way through all the situations, until he's finally brought to the realisation that there are some things he just can't change. And some that he can: his deceit, his false ambitions and his relationships with his family.

There are a couple of missteps in the movie: Joel Tobeck plays the next-door neighbour Ron (apparently his wife has gone, but we never hear much about this). He's there as a support for both Gazza and Gail, but in one scene he winds up supporting Gail in a rather more intimate way. Nothing more comes of this - Ron would like more, but Gail realises she's made a mistake. However, it undercuts Gail's integrity as a character, especially as she never admits to it having happened.

And in an early scene the younger boy, who only looks about 13 or 14, makes some sexual comment to a young woman who works for the cleaning company. She tells him to get lost, but after the movie is finished, and the credits start, she turns up again in the hospital and exposes her breasts the boy. It seems a bit tasteless, and undermines the well-tuned ending of the story.
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