Monday, June 15, 2009

THREE BLIND MICE: Catch this Aussie film before it disappears from On-Demand

We haven't seen many Australian films hit the U.S. market of late (unless you count that bloated Baz Luhrmann schlock-fest starring the two "men," Kid and Jack), so discovering Matthew Newton's little gem THREE BLIND MICE was quite a surprise. Just hearing those zingy Aussie accents was a pleasure (though I admit it took my ears some getting used to before they began to understand all the

clever dialog: Thank god for the go-back button). The whole movie, in fact, is a non-stop pleasure.

The 32-year-old Newton -- shown at left, who wrote, directed and co-stars in the film -- comes from a Aussie show-biz family and has a heavy-duty resume in legit theatre, so for all we know he's been prepping for this current outing most of his life. His background has paid off handsomely, for his film is consistently alive, enormously intelligent and gripping without ever being pushy.

I apologize for not watching the "screener" earlier so that I could give you more time to catch the film before it ends its On-Demand run this Thursday (June 18). But Three Blind Mice is so good -- modest, smart and beautifully conceived and executed -- that I urge you to see it. It tells a more-or-less 24-hour tale of three young Australian naval officers (shown below) on a one-day leave before they ship back to the Middle East. They kid, argue and cajole; visit a diner where they flirt, play cards and then meet for dinner with one's fiancee and family. We learn bits and pieces of the back-story only gradually, with the exposition neatly buried into everyday dialog that gives us clues to characters and events.

The writing is exceptionally savvy. Note this comparison of being in the military to being in high school: "When you haven't done your French homework, everything falls apart because that's all you know. Well, it's the same out there, 'cause that's all you know. When they smile at you: It's roses!" (There's even a brilliant precis on the life of an aging hooker -- handled in just 60 seconds.) Newton has made certain that his performers reflect a complete understanding of character and motivation; not only the leads but every cast member, small role to large, does a bang-up job.

The cast is pretty much a Who's Who of Australian cinema, and each member does him/herself proud. All three leads -- Ewen Leslie, Toby Schmitz and Mr. Newton -- are new to me, but many cast members ring memory bells, from "Bud" Tingwell to Jackie Weaver (both splendid), and even some of the younger actors seem familiar: Gracie Otto, (below) lively and charming, doubles as film editor and is the younger sister of Miranda and daughter of Barry (who also appears in the film and is shown above, second from right).

The film is wise and not particularly nice about the military and military service, yet, by the finale, our heroes have grown a bit and nothing seems as black-and-white as we (or they) might have imagined. More than anything else, it's the absolute and utterly truthful sense of life unfurling before your eyes and ears that the movie captures so expertly. Although this is basically a comedy -- maybe a dramedy -- there are still moments that rivet so intensely that you find yourself holding your breath for fear of what might happen. It's that real. And if I hear a funnier line this year than "The waitress was a virgin, was she?" (coupled to an ace visual, of course), I'll be very surprised.

As I say, Three Blind Mice will last only through Thursday, June 18, On-Demand from the following cable systems:
BrightHouse: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Cablevision: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters - Festival Direct
Comcast: Channel 1 - Movies & Events - IFC Festival Direct
Cox: Channel 1 - Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Time Warner: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Rent it - or spend your life in regret!

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