The Night We Called It A Day boasts some terrific performances and great ideas (not to mention a clever title), but is betrayed by a plot that fails to unite all the ingredients into a satisfying whole.In 1974, Frank Sinatra visited Australia as part of his “Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back” tour. Angered by intrusive questioning from the press, he denounced journalists as hookers, among other choice epithets. Australian unions responded by refusing to work with him, concerts were cancelled and the tour ground to a halt.
Against this historical backdrop, writers Peter Clifton and Michael Thomas have added a fictional love story between a shonky rock promoter, Rod Blue (Joel Edgerton), and his besotted assistant Audrey (Rose Byrne). Clifton knows a thing or two about 1970s rock - he’s directed several documentaries including Led Zeppelin’s famed The Song Remains the Same in 1976.
Unfortunately, the weakest element of the film is the love story that takes centre stage. No fault of the players, since Edgerton and Byrne are especially strong, but it strains credulity to have Blue sleep with the glamorous reporter (Portia de Rossi) who kicks off the controversy. Not to mention having us believe that Sinatra (Dennis Hopper) and mistress Barbara Marx (Melanie Griffiths) were interested enough in all this to play matchmaker.
Director Paul Goldman (Australian Rules) recreates the political stoush with a pleasingly satirical glint in his eye. He seems less assured with overt comedy and, by the frenetic climax, seems to have lost his way altogether. The frenzied editing smacks of uncertainty, or worse desperation, on Goldman’s behalf as to how to tie the story together. So we cut between Sinatra on stage, Blue in a punch-up with one of Sinatra’s minders and Blue’s office assistant having a baby!
Hopper makes a surprisingly convincing Sinatra, except when lip-synching to Tom Burlinson’s vocals. Melanie Griffiths is every inch the star and there’s good support from David Field, who contributes a canny impersonation of union leader Bob Hawke. I’m not sure why English actor David Hemmings (who has directed and appeared in several Australian films since the late 1970s) was cast as Sinatra’s attorney, and I’m even less convinced it was money well spent.The Night We Called It A Day is buoyed by stylish design and performances. It’s a shame when it’s bogged down before the finish.