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1 review, 2 user ratings

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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Class act"
4 stars

Caddie is a warmly coloured, lovingly told adaptation of a pseudonymous autobiography. “Caddie” (Helen Morse) leaves her violent middle class husband after he cheats on her, escaping with their two small children into the poorer streets of Sydney. Determined to raise her children solo, she takes a job as a barmaid. Writer Joan Long and director Don Crombie follow her through the late 1920s into the Great Depression, charting her struggles to support her family and her misfortune with men.

The film’s chief flaw is its episodic storytelling. Just as a character seems ready to spark with Caddie, they disappear from the film entirely. This is true of the film’s three AFI supporting acting winners: Jacki Weaver as plucky barmaid Josie, who’s last seen after a backyard abortion; Melissa Jaffer’s Leslie, who works in a more up-market hotel and overcharges the customers to replenish her “tips jar”; and Drew Forsythe as the painfully shy Sonny, brother of the neighbourhood rabbit-o, who helps care for Caddie when she’s malnourished and exhausted.

Helen Morse is playing a very different character to her French schoolmistress in Picnic at Hanging Rock the previous year, and her presence goes a long way towards holding the film together. Also worthy of note in a small role is Jack Thompson as the likeable bookie heel, Ted. He christens Morse’s character “Caddie” after his car, for her beauty and class. It’s the smaller characters that give Morse something to work with; the film drags when it’s only her and Greek lover Peter (Takis Emmanuel). They’re both so serious and noble in love that you know it can only end in tragedy. It does, off screen (a closing title tells us he returned from Greece, but died in a motor vehicle accident before they could marry).

There’s some poorly matched post-synchronisation and dialogue that sounds peculiarly of the 1970s (but may be accurate to the period), as Caddie spouts feminist slogans and rails against dole bludgers and accepting welfare. But the 1920s and early 1930s have been recreated beautifully on a tight budget, with costumes (Judith Dorsman) and production design (Owen Williams) superb. Arguably, producer Anthony Buckley could have saved money by not having period colour, such as transport, in the background of every shot. Patrick Flynn’s score manages to evoke the era without being twee.

The ending’s very sudden, and it’s difficult to know what Crombie and Long are trying to say with this character. Morse conveys Caddie’s resilient style, but isn’t very expressive when it comes to the film’s themes of class, the working spirit, feminism and obstacles to survival amongst the down-trodden. Perhaps it’s peculiarly Australian to celebrate such an anonymous, if representative, life but Caddie at least portrays it entertainingly, with gentle charm and humour.

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originally posted: 07/23/03 13:36:13
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User Comments

2/25/08 Don Conlin Pretty good for a movie with a small budget but I'd watch Helen Morse in anything. 4 stars
3/21/04 Eli its okay 3 stars
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Directed by
  Donald Crombie

Written by
  Joan Long

  Helen Morse
  Takis Emmanuel
  Jack Thompson
  Jacki Weaver
  Melissa Jaffer
  Drew Forsythe

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