dir Rob Sitch
Moonwalk. At play on the dish...
scr Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Rob Sitch
with Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long,
Tayler Kane, Eliza Szonert, Bille Brown, Roy Billing,
Lenka Kripac, Genevieve Mooy, Matthew Moore, John McMartin
Review by Rich Cline
From Working Dog (The Castle) comes another warm and very funny Australian comedy, this time based on a true story ... the little-known fact that an Aussie satellite dish carried the live television feed from the moonwalk in July 1969.
When Nasa hires the Parkes radio telescope to help keep track of Apollo 11 while the moon is over Earth's southern hemisphere, no one realises how important their role will become. While the prime minister (Brown) and the town mayor (Billing) see it as a chance for a little positive PR, the crew at the dish (Neill, Harrington and Long) worry about everything that could go wrong. Especially with a Nasa guy (Warburton) on site to watch over their shoulders.
Quirky, sharp humour underlies every scene in this essentially affectionate depiction of the real events leading up to what is probably history's most momentous telecast. Sitch's direction and the Working Dog team's script manage to be both acerbic and endearing from start to finish, drawing out the themes without clubbing us over the head with them. And the performances are right on the money; the actors grab every detail and make these people fascinating, likeable and often hilarious as they cope with incredible stress with ingenuity and wit. The film simply gets everything right, from the late-1960s vibe to the balance between comedy and drama. It's a pure delight to watch, we learn some history, we're challenged to be a bit more daring ... and Americans get a great idea for changing their national anthem to something a bit more snappy.
[12--themes, language] 27.Oct.00 lff
US release 14.Mar.01; UK release 11.May.01
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"Loosly based on historical facts the story follows a group of radio telescope operators assisting NASA with relaying data from the first lunar landing. They must contend with human error, adverse environmental conditions and pestering by politicians and the local populace they manage to bring the world some of the first images of Neil Armstrong's moonwalk. Sitch cleverly weaves a lot of humour into the storyline which gives us a quaint look at Australia in 1967 whilst simultaneaously creating a work which like the recent Olympics is designed to instill national pride by showing that we can be successful players on the world stage. Sitch's last film the excellent, highly original and very successful comedy The Castle meant any sequel had a lot to live up to. The Dish is more drama than comedy and may disappoint Castle fans. The filmmakers have designed The Dish so that it has more appeal to Americans by having a key American character to relate to, a soundtrack with various overused classical pieces and a cliched flashback setup where we start and end with an older Neill reminiscing on the past. Whilst this may help US box office figures, the film itself does suffer from this 'made to market' approach. Still you can't blame the team for wanting to make money and hopefully in the future this skilled team will return to the forte which is making cutting-edge comedy satirising contemporary Australia. ***1/2" --Gawain M, Filmnet, Melbourne.
© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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