The Out Back
If Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom made the case for a camp, modern Australian cinema, then Strange Bedfellows is the rather brutish rebuttal.
This broad comedy stars Paul Hogan and Michael Caton as two macho, small-town firemen, who have to pretend to be a gay couple in order to cash in on a new tax break. The scriptís idea of what constitutes "being gay" is predictably crass. The men get a queeny hairdresser to teach them how to mince and pout, and then visit a Sydney gay club, in outfits the Village People would have rejected as being too clichťd.
Eventually, all the characters convene at the townís Firemanís Ball, where one of the men finds out his daughter is gay. How will he react? What will the locals think? Will he inspire them with a moving speech about tolerance and respect, as strings soar in the background?
As if this stock scene were not bad enough, the speech itself argues bizarrely that homosexuality should be tolerated as it is simply another (albeit inferior) form of the Australian tradition of "mateship." Strewth.
Itís a pity the script is so offensive, because in other respects the film is quite watchable. Michael Caton gives a winning performance, and even Paul Hogan is bearable.
Prettily shot, the film also features a sunny, jazz score and a handful of funny lines -- at one point one of the men complains,"The worst thing about all this isnít that people think Iím gay, itís that people think Iím going out with you!"
Strange Bedfellows offers a fairly comprehensive DVD package, with a nice range of extras, and a good quality print. Special features include: a number of cinema and TV trailers for the film; some behind-the-scenes footage; a couple of local Australian TV features promoting the film; a series of text biographies of the principals; the movie poster; and a photo gallery. There are also some deleted scenes, although why anyone would want to watch scenes that werenít good enough to make the finished version is beyond me.
In addition, the package contains interviews with director Dean Murphy and stars Paul Hogan and Michael Caton, which mostly consist of the usual PR guff about how wonderful everyone was to work with.
Hoganís interview, however, is a treat. First, he shamelessly talks up the film, at one point describing director Murphy as "an undiscovered genius." Then, he goes on to discuss his own role -- boasting about his tendency to ad lib, he jokes: "If I was in Shakespeare, Iíd still ad lib a few lines."
(DVD released by Magna Pacific; not rated by MPAA.)