Praise lingers and improves in the memory, days after you've seen it.It is a contemporary love story set during the hot summer months in Brisbane. Gordon (Peter Fenton) has just quit his job as a bottle shop attendant for no real reason besides lack of ambition. He is invited over for drinks by Cynthia (Sacha Horler), one of the barmaids from the pub attached to the bottle shop. Cynthia has also quit her job; she's moving to Darwin with her parents, but is desperate for a one-night stand before she leaves. Cynthia has recently stopped taking heroin. She has chronic eczema and a ravenous sexual appetite. Gordon's extreme lethargy initially delays Cynthia's plans for sexual conquest, but when Gordon says he loves her, Cynthia forgoes the shift to Darwin to move in with Gordon.
Praise is beautifully lit by Dion Beebe so that Gordonís dingy apartment is constantly shifting, in tune with his dramatically evolving relationship with Cynthia. Andrew McGahan wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of his award-winning novel. Director John Curran has elicited likeable and realistic performances from his two leads, both of whom were pretty much unknown on film before this. Fenton is lead singer with the rock band Crow, making his acting debut here; Horler has already gone on to further high-profile work in Christine Andreef's forthcoming Soft Fruit.
As well as the excellent performances of the leads, there's a surprisingly good supporting cast, including a cameo by Jacki Weaver, some lively fellow tenants in Gordon's building, and Joel Edgerton (he played the video store manager in Erskineville Kings). Edgerton is someone to watch - he plays Gordon's slightly less apathetic best mate to perfection, and has a beautiful, comic moment that perfectly illustrates the difference between the sexes - a quick roll of the eyes when he realises he's blundered into an ongoing dispute between Gordon and Cynthia that he'd either forgotten about, or assumed was long resolved. He makes a strong impression in both films without needlessly distracting attention from his fellow actors, and Iíd like to see him in other roles.
Praise takes place in a very heavy drugs and drinking milieu - even the asthmatic Gordon smokes excessively - which is usually a big turnoff for me (drug-taking, whether you condone it or not, is not a spectator sport). But the direction and performances keep it involving. The sex is frequent, and frequently funny. The Dirty Three provide the music, and itís good enough to stand on its own.My only difficulty with the film is a response to the relentlessly introverted Fenton character. He is a superb contrast to Horler, but the film dims noticeably when she's
offscreen. And he appears so unchanged at the end that you begin to wonder what the point was - it makes the preceding story seem almost inconsequential.