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STRANGE BEDFELLOWS – Australia’s odd couple

Starring: Paul Hogan, Michael Caton, Pete Postlethwaite, Paula Duncan, Glynn Nicholas, Monica Maughan
Director: and co-written by Dean Murphy
Rated: M15+

IN the tradition of The Castle and The Dish comes Strange Bedfellows, a good-natured comedy about tolerance that is a welcome showcase for many of our best known actors.

Set in Yackandandah in northern Victoria, Aussie icon Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee 1 and 2) plays Vince Hopgood, a small businessman and operator of the local cinema who gets a letter demanding payment of back taxes for companies owned by his ex-wife, but registered in his name.

Facing ruin, Vince reads in the newspaper that the federal government in an election year is about to pass a retrospective tax law giving gay couples the same legal rights as married couples.

In a flash he sees a way out of his quandary. If he and his best mate Ralph Williams (Michael Caton, The Castle, The Interview) split incomes and register for tax purposes as a gay couple, then Vince’s tax problem will be solved and Ralph will benefit as well.

Ralph is horrified at the idea, but eventually agrees – as long as nobody knows. But when the taxman (Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father) comes to town to check that Vince and Ralph really are a gay couple, things get delightfully out of hand.

There are many reasons why Strange Bedfellows works so well as both farce and gentle commentary.

As the Antipodean ‘odd couple’, Hogan and Caton give finely judged, beautifully understated performances, Caton especially.

Both actors hit their straps when the two friends hit Sydney’s King’s Cross, swap their straight clothes for something more suitable, and embark on a crash course in ‘gayness’ at a gay bar.

Director Dean Murphy himself hails from Kergunyah in Victoria, but has worked for several years in Hollywood, honing his skills in script writing and production. This professionalism shows, and augments Murphy’s natural sympathy for a raft of endearing country characters (Alan Cassell and Roy Billings as Ralph and Vince’s macho mates, Paula Duncan as the postmistress and Monica Maughan as chief organiser of the ill-fated Firemen’s Ball, etc), all of whom are believable.

Unlike Ted Emery’s The Honourable Wally Norman, which failed because of an undeveloped script, Strange Bedfellows moves with ease through a number of amusing, not entirely unpredictable situations, that are played not only for laughs but something more thoughtful too.

Catholic audiences will notice the presence in the film of Fr Xavier Delaney (Shane Withington, A Country Practice) and his cautionary warning to Vince and Ralph that ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Stevie’. They will hardly fail to miss, too, that the film seems to sanction tax evasion.

Others, however, will be content to see Strange Bedfellows as having a bit of fun at the taxman’s expense, in the name of tolerance and a ‘fair go’.

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