Spin Out (2016)
Australian filmmaking stands tall amongst the best in global cinema. We have so many iconic works across all genres that show our love of land and respect for its traditional owners, mock our idiosyncratic humour and explore the spirit of adventure that has driven the creation of this island nation. Disappointingly, there is not a hint of any of this in the coming of age rom-com called Spin Out (2016). It is difficult to even guess why this film was made and why it had to fall so short of our Aussie film traditions, given the resources at its disposal.
The story centres on the fading outback customs of the ute muster and the Bachelor and Spinsters ball, both of which are struggling for survival against insurance costs and the social disintegration of traditional life in remote rural areas. The ute muster is a competition between ute stunt drivers who perform a variety of high risk manoeuvres in a mechanised rodeo setting, and the B & S ball is the bacchanalian booze-up that happens after the show. Billy (Xavier Samuel) and Lucy (Morgan Griffin) are stunt-driver teammates and childhood friends. After another display of Billy’s immaturity, Lucy announces that she is heading for city life and leaving all of this behind.
The rest of the story is about Billy’s realisation that his teammate has become the girl he loves and he needs to grow up fast, a theme that is echoed amongst several of Billy’s mates in their inept courting rituals. The dominant take-home memories from this film are the roaring dust storms of spinning utes and the inevitable consequences of non-stop drinking.
One can only hope that anyone seeing this film overseas realises that it is a grossly exaggerated caricature of rural stereotypes and not a portrait. The dialogue is so corn- starched that many scenes read like a high-school play with acting performances that scream inauthenticity. The only shining light comes from Morgan Griffin who, despite the script, fills each close-up scene with pleasing warmth and maturity. Xavier Samuel is wasted here, especially after his fine performance in Love and Friendship (2016).
Otherwise, the cast is entirely young white adults without even a nod of respect for the Indigenous inhabitants of the land so ruthlessly being ripped up by white mans’ machines. The humour is puerile, fixated on stunted sexual development and a variety of bodily functions that could have been rendered funny but are not. The narrative theme of young people’s progression to adulthood in the harshness of outback Australia is entirely lost in a messy confusion of juvenile slapstick sketches.
Directors: Tim Ferguson, Marc Gracie
Stars: Xavier Samuel, Morgan Griffin, Travis Jeffrey