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The Castle

Year: 1997
Production Co: Working Dog
Director: Rob Sitch
Writer: Santo Cilauro
Cast: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Eric Bana, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
More than any film in Australia, The Castle has a lot to answer for. Being the breakout hit it was, it became endlessly replicated by the conservative and narrow-minded backers of Australian film production for the next ten years, culminating in 2004 with the arrival of films nobody in their right mind would see, much less enjoy.

Why it worked is hard to grasp. Plenty of other films (and TV shows, the creative genesis for so much Australian cinema output) have failed trying to depict the same thing; the uniquely Australian institution of being a dag on your own little bit of suburbia.

Maybe it was as the tagline said at the time; 'the movie that sticks the finger up the big guys', one that could have been referring to the story inside the movie and the movie itself. Telling the story of the Kerrigan family standing up for the right to not have their fibro house sold from under them, it also blew away the big budget international competition at the box office.

Mostly a montage of cultural cringe kind of stuff early on ('this is going straight to the poolroom', the ugg boots, 'tell him he's dreamin', the hairdressing certificate from Sunrise TAFE), the story kicks into gear when the Kerrigans and their neighbours are told they have to move to make way for expansion of Melbourne airport.

With the help of their inept suburban solicitor who can do a conveyancing job, can't get his copier working and ascribes the case to being 'the vibe' of the Constitution, family figurehead Darryl (Caton) takes the case all the way to the high court, winning the sympathy of QC Tingwell and introducing him to a whole new generation of film fans.

Despite the laughs, it actually says a lot about social justice. But the laughs are what you go for, and there are plenty. Whatever magic formula the Working Dog team cooked up to make The Castle and The Dish work so well, no other Australian film in the feel-good comedy genre has managed to capture it.

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