aka Introducing the Dwights


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you have been following recent British Cinema, you probably have the general impression that the UK only exports two types of movies:

Type A: Cold new-style gangster pics replete with ultraviolence, black humor, heavy working class accents, colorful urban slang, sudden tone shifts, and lots of modern editing and photographic gimmicks - pace shifts, speed-ups and -downs, freeze-frames, extreme color saturation, and so forth. The prototype is Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Type B: Warm small-town stories about eccentric provincials, centered around one individual or small group struggling to be accepted while doing something unconventional: grannies growing weed, boys aspiring to ballet careers, housewives stripping for charity calendars, and so forth. If Dickens were still alive, he would be writing about these people instead of the city folks who were the colorful eccentrics of his own time. The prototype here is The Full Monty.

Although Clubland is an Australian film, it is driven by British characters, and is a stereotypical British Type B. At age 50-something, an English immigrant (Brenda Blethyn) works in a lowly food service job in Australia, but has not abandoned the dream of her youth, a career as a ribald stand-up comic. Several nights a week she does a vulgar-but-not-too-vulgar act for anyone who will listen. Her ex-husband is also a two-bit entertainer, a C&W singer who once actually had a song on the country charts for three weeks. Although those weeks marked the beginning and end of his time in the big show, he matches his ex's enthusiasm for performing, and fits every possible gig around his normal job as a retail security guard. The family is rounded out by two sons: the sweet, socially awkward young man who anchors the story, and his brain-damaged but lovable brother.

If the film revolved solely around Brenda Blethyn's character, it would be a failure, because she is utterly unappealing. Blethyn has done a very similar character before, in Little Voice, and received an Oscar nomination for doing it, so there's no doubt that she has it down to a science, but the character just grates on the viewer's nerves. She's never really concerned with the happiness of her two sons, but only wants them to conform to her own personal need for an unconventional family life and their support of her career dreams. She treats her shy son's girlfriends with contempt, and does everything possible to drive a wedge between her sons and the outside world in order to keep them in her cocoon. Her ex-husband seems like a genuinely good person, but she treats him with the disgust normally reserved for poisonous snakes near the family pets. Her performing is exactly what you would expect from a woman who has been at it for decades without success. Her lame act seems like one of those nostalgia acts where an old-timer does his familiar vintage routines to bring back memories for his fellow codgers. She's like the elderly Sinatra performing My Way for those who remembered when the song first came out. But there's a big difference. Sinatra was resting on his laurels, and this character has no laurels to rest upon. With no material, no laurels, and a generally unpleasant personality, she's obviously destined to spend the rest of her life playing at rest homes and Shriner conventions, but she doesn't realize that because her schtick seems to work just fine in the rooms she plays. Then she gets her big chance at an important audition and the suits find her act uninspiring. That cold blast of reality sets her off on a binge of booze and self-pity in which she abuses everyone around her even more than usual. It's a standard Dickensian formula. She is Scrooge, while the soft-spoken, good-natured son is Bob Cratchet and the handicapped son with a heart of gold is Tiny Tim.

I suppose the ex-husband is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Or maybe he's Marley. Or maybe I'm stretching my metaphor too far.

Fortunately, her story is only a portion of what the movie has to offer. The parallel story, which follows the struggle of her sons to grow up and mingle with the people of the real world, is a pleasant coming-of-age tale. The "normal" son has to overcome severe shyness and a bad case of virginity, but he is fortunate enough to latch on to a girl who has been through enough frogs to spot a prince when she sees one. The girlfriend not only has to deal with his neurotic timidity, but also has to compete for his attention against a needy brother and a mother who wants to hold on to her son by driving away his girlfriends. This portion of the story, relating how the girlfriend overcomes all those obstacles to love both a timorous boy and his spastic brother, is handled with subtlety and such close-to-the-bone honesty that you think it must be a verbatim transcription of somebody's own conversations. The warmth and candor of the coming-of-age story manages to push the mother's sloppy, pathetic showbiz dreams into the background. That's a good thing, because mom's mid-life crisis is incapable of carrying a film, but suffices to provide some spice for the kids' somewhat bland romance.

In order to complete the Dickensian portion of the tale, the Blethyn character, like Scrooge or The Grinch, needed some redemption, so the film's finale gave her a chance to say "What day is this?," and her son a chance to respond "My wedding day, sir ... er ... mum," whereupon she ordered everyone an enormous goose, sang a song with her ex-, and allowed the crippled boy to say "God Bless Us Every One."


* widescreen







3 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
3 BBC (of 5 stars)
3 The Guardian  (of 5 stars)
53 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
50 (of 100)






7.2 IMDB summary (of 10)






Box Office Mojo. $400,000 in mini-arthouse distribution (70 theaters)

Australia. It grossed about a million $US in a maximum of 85 theaters. That was good enough to hover around the bottom of the top ten for three weeks.







  • Emma Booth showed her breasts and the side of her hips in three sex scenes.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: