Review of The Merry Gentleman and Newcastle


The Merry Gentleman. Some woman just can’t help but make bad choices. In this film, if the central character’s not falling in love with sociopathic policemen who beat her, then she’s falling in love with guns for hire with a hearts of gold (when it’s a woman, it’s a prostitute with a heart of gold; when it’s a man, it’s a hired gun—I don’t know what that says about society). The film itself is very intriguing, small and intelligent. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly McDonald is on board, the wonderful actress of State of Play (the TV version) and The Girl in the Café. And Michael Keaton, at times almost unrecognizable, barely speaks, but does a nice job of both acting and directing (apparently taking over when the writer Ron Lazzerritti became ill). It’s a little too ambiguous at times and the ending doesn’t quite communicate what it needs to, but still, I recommend it.

Newcastle is a coming of age film revolving around surfers in Newcastle, Australia. It’s entertaining and it gets the job done, but it’s also fairly typical of the genre. People are estranged, families are dysfunctional, tragedy strikes, life lessons are learned; oh, and teenagers lose their virginity (you know, “in everyone’s life, there’s a ‘Summer of ‘42’”?). The screenplay by Dan Castle, who also directed, could benefit from a more focused through line; it changes horses in midstream with the first two thirds being a character study of a dysfunctional family, the last third becoming one of those films where someone, somehow finds the courage to go on. Because of this, the tragedy that occurs doesn’t seem to grow organically out of the story, but seems pasted on in order to find a way to end the story. I’m being snarky, I know. It’s more enjoyable that I’m letting on. And there’s a lot of rear nudity (though no frontal—there is something a bit prudish about it at the end of the day), which can’t be all bad.

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