It would be inconceivable to think of this movie as anything but Australian.
"Children of the Revolution" is further proof that Australians are wired differently from the rest of us. They are endowed with a puckish turn of mind that we Americans, in our earnestness, can appreciate but not emulate. We cock our heads in curiosity as we watch their films with varying degrees of befuddlement and admiration. The only safe bet is that whatever they do will be original and often inspired. They did, after all, make "Babe."
"Children" is an audacious bit of mischief. In his first time up, writer/director Peter Duncan dares to swing for the home run. Bathing himself in bravado, Duncan launches a full-blown parody of nothing less than Communism, Joseph Stalin, and Russia itself.
He risks the whole kaboodle on Judy Davis, who plays Joan, a hot-wired Australian Communist whose every waking moment is dedicated to bringing the workers' revolution to the world--or at least to Australia, which was hardly in imminent danger of being ground under the Russian boot. Revolutionary zeal has extinguished normal life for this creature of the movement. "Nice people irritate me," she complains. She is weary, exhausted by her effort to save the world. And she is very funny.
Joan has been writing worshipful letters to Joseph Stalin, who responds by inviting her to Moscow and taking her to bed, where she becomes pregnant and he dies. Returning to Australia with a certain pride in having dispatched the supreme traitor to the true revolution, she gives birth to Little Joe and resumes life with her long-suffering, compliant companion, Welsh (Geoffrey Rush). Joe (Richard Roxburgh) shows an early fascination with the police, jails, protests, and by the time he has grown his mustache, he is his father's son. His mother will spend the balance of her life trying to recruit him to the cause.
If all this sounds ridiculous, it is. But it is delivered by Sam Neill as a friendly double agent for the Russians, F. Murray Abraham as a looney Stalin, a suitably wimpish Geoffrey Rush as the support system of a warrior, and a wacky Kremlin staff. Leading the whole unruly pack is Judy Davis, who sparks the movie as Joan in a marvelous take-off on the fervor of the ideologue.
As decades pass, her strident dedication to the now famously doomed experiment never mellows. Steadfast even when her noble cause is betrayed by Stalin, Joan ultimately gives us a perfect moment: watching Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev become the world's triumphant first couple on television, she moans, "It's the end of civilization as we know it."
It would be inconceivable to think of this movie as anything but Australian. Who else would make a comedy about Joseph Stalin? Parody of tragedy is tricky stuff, and this veers close to that. But parody of earnestness is legitimate turf. Whatever else they may be, Australian filmmakers are resoundingly eccentric and endearingly bold.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 490
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h41m
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page