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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Free Willie

False at every turn, an Australian stage musical comes to half-life on the screen

Posted on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 4:00 AM

*
Bran Nue Dae
Studio: Freestyle Releasing, LLC
Rated: NOT RATED
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Rocky McKenzie, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Jessica Mauboy
Director: Rachel Perkins
WorkNameSort: Bran Nue Dae
Our Rating: 1.00

Reportedly a popular musical in Australia, though it's difficult to imagine why, Bran Nue Dae is a film adaptation that barely qualifies as either a film or a musical. 

Written for the screen and directed by indigenous Aussie Rachel Perkins, the film concerns Willie (Rocky McKenzie), a young aborigine plagued with intense Christian guilt, who runs away from home for no apparent reason. In no time at all ' almost everything happens in super-speed during this 88-minute sketch ' Willie lands in the condemning arms of a priest (a hammy Geoffrey Rush), saddles up to a friendly, if conniving, hobo and hitches a ride with a couple of German hippies. Along the way, he participates in utterly insipid songs with upbeat Christian messages ('All the Way Jesus,� 'Child of Glory�) and halfhearted choreography in numbers put together with the visual flair of a beige couch. 

There are generational secrets unveiled, lessons learned and love unearned. Willie's supposedly in love with a cute aborigine girl from his village, Rosie, whom he runs from as fast as he can ' literally ' every time he sees her (probably because whenever he thinks about her, he envisions her as a flame-engulfed devil, which is just so romantic). She's fallen into the attentive, somewhat cocky arms of Lester, a local musician who gives Rosie a chance to sing and displays actual sexual interest in her, and therefore must be ruined completely. 

It's tough to root for a main character who's so brainwashed and mentally weak that he looks down upon his great love just for being cute, and although he 'stands up� to Lester eventually (to the delight of the entire village), his redemption is wholly false, as is the entire spirit of this cheap, clumsy musical. 

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