One of my favourite comedies of all time is The Dish, an Australian film from 2000 all about the radio observatory at Parkes that received the video signal of the Apollo 11 moon landing. That modern classic was the second feature by the writing and producing team headed by director Rob Sitch. This was the first.
Darryl Kerrigan is my hero.
Darryl Kerrigan lives beside Melbourne Airport. Literally. The runway ends about ten yards from his back fence. He and his family are perfectly happy in their home, and a man’s home is his castle, so when the airport authority decide to buy the property under a compulsory purchase order so they can expand, Darryl is not exactly chuffed. Enlisting his neighbours and the local lawyer, Darryl decides to take his fight right to the top in order to protect his castle.
This is quite simply a gorgeous little film. Not only that, but it is a royal “up yours” to the Hollywood excess of inflated budgets and year-long production schedules; from the initial idea to the final cut of the movie took a total of five weeks and only A$19,ooo. The script by director Rob Sitch, Jane Kennedy, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner has a wonderfully improvised feel to it. Nobody (except the Irish) does conversational swearing like the Australians, and the endlessly quotable dialogue in The Castle has a poetry all its own.
As played by Michael Caton, Darryl deserves to be on the list of great comedy characters. He’s loyal, loving, generous, relentlessly cheerful and constantly hilarious. Alongside Caton, the rest of the cast is pitch-perfect, particularly Stephen Curry (from last week’s Rogue) as youngest son Dale, who narrates the picture. His deadpan but sincere delivery of the voiceover adds a lot of laughs. There is also a small role for a certain Eric Bana as Darryl’s son-in-law, making his film debut, but it’s real-life solicitor Costas Kilias who almost steals the entire film as the Kerrigans’ Lebanese neighbour Farouk.
What I found particularly refreshing about The Castle was the total absence of cynicism. At first glance, Darryl and his clan may just seem to be simple-minded and something to be laughed at for their lack of sophistication, but then you realise that the Kerrigans are an example of what we should all aspire to be: people who are happy with what they have. The Castle has been voted as Australia’s favourite Australian film, and it’s now tied for mine too. (I still love The Dish though.)