Please take this opening sentence as an extension of my hand to shake yours.
I have always been interested in watching more Australian films, with my recent decision to start movie reviewing allowing me the opportunity to fulfil this desire. But then, there are films like Book Week, a movie which makes me reconsider my interest in watching more Australian films.
Book Week suffers from bouts of hysteria; a melodramatic and cliché bound story about an unlikeable teacher (Nicholas Cutler, played by Alan Dukes) who has visions of grandeur but is let down by his self-destructive tendencies. In the week leading up to the settlement of a publishing deal, Cutler must come to terms with all aspects of his life including relationships at school, the needs of his family, and mistakes from his past that continue to haunt him.
There is a contradiction of sorts in Book Week, a film which holds quality literature in such high regard yet features a story that feels like a first draft. A film which presents itself as profound but is undone by contrived dialogue that attempts dark comedy yet comes across as amateur.
Dukes is captain of the vessel but is let down entirely by a thematically convoluted narrative which, just when you thought had finished introducing half-baked complications to keep the film afloat, adds another chapter in the series that ultimately builds to a ridiculous payoff.
Characters are caricatures in Book Week with attempts from the film to feel current feeling five years behind (are vampires still hot?) and as though the screenplay was written by a parent who had just learnt what dabbing was. There is a level of conviction shown by other actors in the film, however, they appear to have been instructed by writer/director Heath Davis to project their lines as if they were auditioning for a government commercial.
Female representation is troublesome, with all supporting female characters shown as angry, bothered and begrudging of Cutler, particularly that of a young love interest that furthers the problematic old-man-young-girl trope.
Most likely not in the way the director had intended for, there is some enjoyment to be had with the absurdity of Book Week, which is also disappointing considering some interesting terrain such as Cutler’s frustration with complacency sidelined for soap opera storytelling.
All-in-all, Book Week is an overstuffed attempt at dark-comedy let down by the pathos of its subject, which had the film been a book itself, there’d be plenty of copies available at the library waiting to be checked out, but never will be.
Director: Heath Davis
Cast: Alan Dukes, Susan Prior, Bonnie Ferguson
Writer: Heath Davis