Review: Bran Nue Dae

Musical mess, or a unique, fun masterpiece? Miguel Gonzalez and Paul Hayes debate over Rachel Perkins’ film, which opened in Australia this weekend.

Rocky McKenzie in Bran Nue DaePaul Hayes:

You certainly can’t fault the people behind Bran Nue Dae for trying. They’ve made an admirable effort to create this musical; the problem is it just isn’t particularly good.

This is musical road movie that suffers greatly from its inability to recreate the infectious fun and energy that by all accounts were the pillars of the stage show.

All players do their best but are hampered by some humdrum songs and their limited singing and dancing skills – with the obvious exception of Mauboy. In central role McKenzie, a first-time actor, especially struggles, in terms of both screen presence and performing. And the question must be asked: why would you put Missy Higgins in a musical and not have her belt out a major tune?

Australian audiences have never been devotees of the musical and this is unlikely to win them over.

Miguel Gonzalez:

Musicals are never easy to execute, and their enjoyment is directly proportional to a person’s acceptance or reluctance of a reality in which characters break into song every now and then.

This is, in simple terms, unique, in its irreverent themes (coming of age story, white/Indigenous relations), lyrics, over-the-top performances, surreal plot twists and the dazzling colour palette that WA offers. As a result, it is, as cliché as it might sound, an uplifting experience. Many of its songs – particularly the ones performed by Mauboy and Dan Sultan – could even do well if promoted correctly, tapping into the successful Glee market. If only more people got over their musical phobia, it would indeed be a bran nue dae for the genre in Australia.


Dir. Rachel Perkins

With Geoffrey Rush, Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins

Roadshow, 14/01/2010


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