Ruben Guthrie

Film
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Rich bastards don’t get much sympathy at the Australian box office, where underdogs – be they diggers, drag queens, road warriors, or, um, actual dogs – are more likely to strike a chord. So Brendan Cowell’s play about a Sydney advertising hotshot with a fancy harbourside house who realises alcohol is ruining is life was always going to be a tricky movie proposition, no matter how sparkling and admired it is on the stage. Cowell has adapted and directed the film himself and while he has kept it short and punchy and cast the likeable Patrick Brammall (A Moody Christmas, Offspring) as his protagonist, he hasn’t quite succeeded in universalising this comedy of a guy who gives up booze for a year. It’s all a bit low stakes, while an example of one of Ruben’s ads (for Vivid Sydney, no less) fails to convince as the prize-winning work of a brilliant, calculating ad man. Don Draper, he ain’t.

That said, you can’t fault the character work of the cast, who all reel in the face of Ruben's attempt to reinvent his life. Robyn Nevin and Jack Thompson are the parents, the former supportive but underneath, disappointed in her son’s weakness; the latter – himself an icon of drinking in movies (opening tinnies and shooting kangaroos in 1971's Wake in Fright) – unable to even comprehend why his son won’t share a drink with him. Abbey Lee compels as Ruben’s Czech model girlfriend who gives him a year to straighten up his act, and Harriet Dyer is nicely drippy hippie Ruben meets in AA who becomes his new crutch. Best of all is Alex Dimitriades as Damian, the gay enabler friend who staunchly refuses to recognise his own problem. “Let’s just have one [drink],” he suggests. “When did we ever just have one?” Ruben counters. “OK,” Damian replies without missing a beat: “Let’s have ten.”

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