TOP END WEDDING

★★★★

OUTBACK FANTASTIC

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
10th April 2019

Australian cinema is such a weird and interesting landscape currently; 90% of the films we make are period pieces most likely set in the outback, and the other 10% is the bottom-of-the-barrel "bro" comedies and teenage girl sporting films. I’ve sat through a lot of Australian film released in the past decade, from ‘The BBQ’ to ‘A Few Less Men’, and while there have been standouts like ‘Ali's Wedding’ and of course ‘The Sapphires’, most end up forgotten like ‘Goddess’ and ‘Chasing Comets’. So, it brings me so much joy to say ‘Top End Wedding’ is simply fantastic (I feel I have finally filled this weird Australian comedy destiny that I somehow set for myself).

‘Top End Wedding’ stars Miranda Tapsell (‘The Sapphires’, TV's ‘Love Child’) and Gwilym Lee (‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘The Tourist’) who get engaged, and when given 10 days off work, pack their bags to make a quick trip back home to the Northern Territory to have the wedding of her dreams. But when she arrives, her mother has gone missing, sending her not only on a journey to find her mum, but also on a journey of self-discovery into her Aboriginal culture.

Tapsell and Lee have fantastic chemistry. Their engagement happens in the first 5 minutes, and it really goes to show how good they work together are as a pair. We are invested from the get-go because of how well they play off each other. I also appreciated that the couple was well into a relationship before the film started; it’s so refreshing to see that in a rom-com.

SWITCH: 'TOP END WEDDING' TRAILER

The movie is so delightful, it fills you with such joy, the whole cast is so charismatic and delightful. The passion for the characters - especially Tapsell, who also wrote and produced - leaps off the screen and right into your heart.

There is also that fact that the film is a huge deal for representation for Aboriginals in Australian media. You may see a role or two on television, usually played by Deborah Mailman, but in recent years on film it's really just in films like ‘The Sapphires’ or ‘Bran Nue Dae’, and if not it’s a supporting role as a wise man in something like ‘Storm Boy’. So ‘Top End Wedding’ has this huge added layer to it, it’s an extremely important film not just for Aboriginal people but all Australians. This film represents who we are as a country - a great multicultural land filled with all different kinds of people with all different kinds of races, sexualities and genders. The journey Lauren goes on to find her mother that leads her to find that lost part of culture is something everyone can relate to, no matter your background, and reconnecting with your culture and finding yourself is something we all need to be reminded to do.

‘Top End Wedding’ wouldn’t succeed as much as it does without being a great romantic comedy. The classic rom-com kind of died recently, but thankfully last year it was given new life thanks to films like ‘Love, Simon’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, with all these films having very strong themes of identity in different ways. ‘Top End Wedding’ is very much the Australian ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, with very similar story beats, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The comedy in the film is fantastic, while sometimes it’s a little to obvious and simple, you’ll be laughing from start to finish - and not just chuckles, but big laughs, which is something even some of the best modern comedies can’t do. The film is so rich in its background cast, partly because a lot of the extras are real people from these communities, but also everyone that Lauren and Ned meet in the NT are so memorable; Flossy is definitely the biggest scene stealer, audiences are going to go wild for him... next to Cher the dog, of course.

It brings me so much joy to say this but run out, even if you hate rom-coms, and support ‘Top End Wedding’. Take your mum, your sister, your brother, your dog - this movie deserves to have a huge success... this is our Australia!

A rom-com can't truly fit into the genre unless you cry - and boy, does it deliver. There is a moment in the third act that it will just have you weeping, and of course a wedding is always an easy way to get some tears. It’s great that Australia actually has a rom-com, thinking back we don’t have too many too note, like perhaps ‘Strictly Ballroom’, but that’s more of a comedy/satire. ‘Top End Wedding’ may be Australia’s first true romantic comedy in the vein of your traditional Hollywood fare. It’s sad it took this long, but I’m so glad it turned out this well.

I usually don’t like Australian films (in this context I'm talking about films that are made for an Australian audience, not something like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ or ‘The Great Gatsby’, which are both made for a wider international audience) as they always portray us as farmers in the outback, but that’s only showing a very small section of our Australian identity. While ‘Top End Wedding’ does take place in the outback, it’s such a different spin on how we portray ourselves on film - it’s modern, it’s multicultural, it's finally an Australian film that is truly the Australia we live in today. I remember seeing 'Swinging Safari' last year, and so many people in the audience were saying how that film wasn't us; and would be disgusted if that was what other countries thought we where like. On top of being just a great rom-com, it also finally gives a more than overdue voice to Aboriginal communities, and it's so beautifully done. It brings me so much joy to say this but run out, even if you hate rom-coms, and support ‘Top End Wedding’. Take your mum, your sister, your brother, your dog, go by yourself - this movie deserves to have a huge success... this is our Australia!

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