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The Club (1980)

  Directed by: Bruce Beresford
Written by: David Williamson
Starring: Harold Hopkins, John Howard, Graham Kennedy, Jack Thompson, Frank Wilson
Links: The Club on the IMDb
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Dodgy politics and drop punts" - a review by mino

Playwright David Williamson is something of a legend in Australia. Given that he's a playwright, and Australians are normally a little bit suspicious of anything as, y'know, fruity as the performing arts, that's quite an achievement. Not only has he written some classic plays (not that I've seen any, but I'm assured they're classics) later turned into acclaimed movies like The Removalists (1975) and Don's Party (1976), but he's also an accomplished writer for the big screen — Phar Lap (1983) and Gallipoli (1981) standing out as two classics of Australian cinema of the last twenty-something years.

The Club is one of Williamson's most famous works, and rightly so. It's the story of an Australian Rules football club (that crazy old sport we play down here; you foreign folk might have seen it on ESPN at three o'clock in the morning) which, while fictional, is very obviously based on the real-life Collingwood Football Club — to the extent that not only do the real-life Collingwood locations and facilities make regular appearances, so do a good number of the club's players of the era.

The movie centres around a particularly unsuccessful time for the club in question, much like that Collingwood was experiencing throughout the 1970s. In a desperate attempt to get the club some on-field success, hopefully shoring up his own position, the club's president spends an outlandish amount of money on star Tasmanian recruit Geoff Hayward, much to the disgust of the coach who has to deal with his petulant antics. Over the course of the season, the team's fortunes fail to pick up, and things slowly begin to come to the boil.

Now, obviously, The Club is going to be a lot more accessible and relevant to people who follow — or at least understand — the sport in question. There are plenty of scenes of on-the-field action which non-football-following Aussies will probably find more than a little puzzling. As for those folk who aren't Australian — well, I'd imagine they'll find it even more tricky. That said, though, the film isn't really about football at all — it's not even really about sport. What it's about is politics.

The club is continually whirring with political machinations, and is more a study of how situations of power and impotence affect different people than anything else. The whole structure of the club buzzes with tension between different people, with everyone wanting to assert their authority. At the centre is the president, Ted, who is played by Australian variety TV legend Graham Kennedy. Poor Ted is continually under siege, even if he doesn't know it. The coach (Jack Thompson) thinks he's a busybody who should keep to himself; the players don't respect him; and ancient ex-player, ex-coach, and board member Jock (Frank Wilson) thinks he shouldn't even be there because he's never played the game.

The Club is a very clever and well-balanced mix of sport, politics, interpersonal relationships, and testosterone. Not to be forgotten, though, is the comedy. In the most part, The Club isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it is (in that understated, dry Australian way) very amusing, with humour — both obvious, in the form of jokes, and the less obvious, in the form of subtle characterisation and increasingly surreal situations — infusing even the most tense scenes.

The film is riddled with fine acting performances, not least from Thompson and, surprisingly, Kennedy. To put things in perspective, an Australian seeing someone like Graham Kennedy in a movie is the equivalent of on American seeing Johnny Carson in a starring film role. The fact that Kennedy is very very good indeed is quite surprising, but welcome indeed. Also noteworthy is the fine turn put in by John Howard (not the one who's Prime Minister) as the new recruit, which is quite a shock for those youngies like me who are really only familiar with the more rotund Howard we see on our screens these days.

Certainly, I'm in a prime position to enjoy The Club more than most. I'm a fan of the sport, and I'm a fan of the (thinly disguised) club: for those who are neither, the film might be less enticing. For those from overseas, seeing past the sporting aspect and into the fundamentals of the film won't be easy, particularly as Australian Rules football is such a dimly understood sport at the best of times. If you do, though, I think you'll be rewarded by an enjoyable, thoughtful but funny film. It is rather dated, not just in terms of the dialogue (and the attitudes expressed) but because both society in general and the world of sport specifically have changed a great deal in the last 25 years, which makes some of the happenings and situations rather irrelevant to sport today, not least Aussie Rules. If you look on it as a time capsule rather than an anachronism, though, it's certainly entertaining enough, and quite a fine snapshot of recent (but distant) sporting history.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 7 Jul 2004

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Reader comments

  1. Great film for the average AFL fan.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Andrew on Sat 02 Oct 2004 22:39 #

  2. I loved the movie and book so much i really think that Gerrys friend was really hot i wanted to fuck her.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Jim on Thu 18 Nov 2004 16:12 #

  3. good flick only see it on a boring friday night at home though

    Rating given: 7

    A comment from john on Mon 25 Apr 2005 20:54 #

  4. shazza wanted to see more womenin it not just hairy blokes tackling each other. poofters

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from shazza on Mon 25 Apr 2005 20:59 #

  5. has lost it's zing

    Rating given: 6

    A comment from hgqz on Sun 15 May 2005 16:13 #

  6. FUCKEN PATHETIC

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from blah on Sat 21 May 2005 22:51 #

  7. umm...laurie is the coach, Ted is the Club President

    Rating given: 7

    A comment from stephen on Fri 27 May 2005 23:23 #

  8. You're right, Stephen -- that was my mistake. I've fixed the review. Thanks for picking that up!

    A comment from nofreelist's own mino on Mon 30 May 2005 13:25 #

  9. i love sarah

    A comment from rachell on Tue 21 Jun 2005 13:36 #

  10. sarah got a hot ass

    A comment from rachell on Tue 21 Jun 2005 13:39 #

  11. rachell is so hot right now

    A comment from sarah got a hot ass on Tue 21 Jun 2005 13:40 #

  12. we love kimberly NOT!

    A comment from sarah and rachell on Tue 21 Jun 2005 13:40 #

  13. yeh, good movie

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Pat on Sun 26 Feb 2006 17:30 #

  14. one word..SHIT!!

    A comment from den on Sat 29 Apr 2006 17:35 #

  15. aye?

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from dazza on Wed 02 Aug 2006 18:09 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 6.89 (9 ratings)

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