In country New South Wales, under-motivated council road worker mates Lotto (Eric Bana), Sue (Dave O’Neil) and Wookie (Stephen Curry), during another lazy weekend, stumble on a giant gold nugget that they reckon will change their lives. It sure does, but not quite how they expect.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The low key tone and the small town setting deny audiences the large sized humour audiences have got used to with Australian comedies, where larger than life characters in a larger than large country do colourful things. Here, it’s the dialogue and the characters, together with an Australian sensibility that ripples with edgy humour, which underpin a steady and sometimes melancholy comedy. But then it is meant to be a parable, and the film does have one expansive element, in Nigel Westlake’s effective orchestral score. The three comedian actors at the heart of the film are spot on with their timing and interactions, their wives are well rounded and real, and the supports stay true to the sense of reality that writer/director Bill Bennett aims for. It really is the script, though, that impresses, with its combination of the vernacular and well-observed character-building material. There are several good chuckles and at the first screening in Cannes for buyers, there was even a splash of warm applause at the end. The Nugget aims to amuse and entertain but it also has the parable’s qualities about friendship. Mateship, actually, which is quite specifically an Australianism. This is reinforced by the narration device, which establishes the story and the characters, and draws together the major elements. Max Cullen is well cast as the mysterious old bloke in a shed on top of the hill, and the attendant mystic touches add welcome fantasy to the otherwise earthy mood.
Review by Louise Keller:
What a beauty! Delightfully enjoyable in a dinkum Aussie laid-back style, Bill Bennett has struck a bit of gold with The Nugget. With its central trio of down-to-earth blokes, whose peculiarities are also their endearing qualities, we become involved in their low-key lifestyle and close mateship. It’s a wacky rags to would-be riches tale, and we can’t help but love these characters, who are so excited about their impending good fortune that they are eager to spend up before they are cashed in. Set in the picturesque vineyards and bushlands around Mudgee, The Nugget is replete with the kind of pragmatic humour unique to Australians, and we are all in on the joke. Back on home turf after Black Hawk Down and in the comedy saddle again, Eric Bana is wonderful as Lotto, that unlucky bloke who can never seem to get away from Murphy or his Law. Yessiree, if Lotto bets on a horse race, the way his luck runs, the horse will, rest assured, be put down. But he is lucky in love and Belinda Emmett (playing his wife) is as warm as the sheepskin slippers and track pants she wears. Stephen Curry and Dave O'Neil are terrific as the alien-obsessed and hen-pecked pals; this lovable threesome share a blokey kind of relationship. They might appear simple, but there’s nothing simple about the loyalty and friendship they share. The story unravels seamlessly and apart from a hiccup of disbelief in the Hong Kong gold buyer subplot, offers plenty of laughs and entertainment along the way. Max Cullen does a great turn as the dishevelled ol’ codger who knows more than he says, and while the pathway to happiness may be paved with gold intentions, mates and a few cold ‘uns win the day. The entire film is like one big breath of invigorating fresh air. In fact the tune ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ which is heard through the closing credits, perfectly sums up the film’s philosophy.
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ERIC BANA INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
ON LOCATION with Andrew L. Urban
BILL BENNET INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
NUGGET, THE (PG)
CAST: Eric Bana, Stephen Curry, Dave O'Neil, Belinda Emmett, Peter Moon, Vince Colosimo, Max Cullen
PRODUCER: Bill Bennett, Jennifer Bennett
DIRECTOR: Bill Bennett
SCRIPT: Bill Bennett
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Ruhlmann
EDITOR: Henry Dangar
MUSIC: Nigel Westlake
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nicholas McCallum
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 17, 2002