"Masterfully directed by Monahan, this is a rare and refreshing film because it succeeds on each of its many levels. Peaches constantly engages the emotions, thanks to the rich characters and the excellent performances. This is indeed an achievement."
"Craig Monahan is a gifted director with a natural talent for cinema. The dramatic pull resides in the charactisations and their intricate relationships, fullfilled by outstanding actors. Peaches is compelling."
"Weaving's Alan is tender and wry, as well as ruefully aware of the risks he's taking, while Lung, in her first screen role, proves such a natural that the camera seems privy to her every thought."
"Newcomer Emma Lung is impressive as she portrays a naÔve yet mature-beyond-her-years girl on the verge of womanhood. Her lover Alan (played effortlessly by Hugo Weaving) is complex: you want to hate him but you somehow understand him."
Heather Taylor Johnson AUFS REVIEWS
"There are some terrific ideas in Peaches, and the characters stay with us, these multi-layered people struggling to surface, after being hidden in the shadows for so long."
"Assured Hugo Weaving commands the screen."
"Emma Lung makes a notable debut as Steph, a determined young woman who begins to find her own feet just at the age that life is becoming horribly complicated. Hugo Weaving uses his power of stillness to build a tormented character who has weaknesses and regrets yet his compassion redeems him. And Jacqueline McKenzie shows the enormity of her talent, which we first glimpsed in Romper Stomper."
The Inside Story
"Making terrific use its magnificent setting - South Australia's Riverland - the second feature from Adelaide director Craig Monahan explores territory not usually touched on by our nation's filmmakers." Stan James THE ADELAIDE ADVERTISER
The new Australian film "Peaches", penned by Sue Smith, directed by AFI Award winning South Australian Craig Monahan and beautifully shot by Mobius Award winning Cinematographer Ernie Clark is an attention grabber in more ways than one. There's the opening scenes involving a tragic car crash; the beautiful shots of the mighty Murray River; the closing scenes at the fictitious Dinosaur Bay [in reality, Port Willunga south of Adelaide] and the steamy sex scenes where just turned 18 Steph gives her virginity to a man who was once her mothers boyfriend and lover. And who ever thought scenes of the production line inside a cannery could transpose so creatively on to the big screen. There are so many wonderful images on the screen its hard to know where to look at times. Couple that to the music of composer David Hirschfelder ["Shine"] and "Peaches" presents itself as an entertaining if somewhat 'eccentric' movie, its many good point covering what some critics will see as a multitude of cinematic sins. Not that too many in the audience will notice the little foibles of a film which also happens to feature a very talented ensemble cast of Australian actors. Scriptwriter Sue Smith is obviously delighted with the way her story has translated to the screen noting, "I love the look of the film. It has that lovely autumnal colour which also carries the sense of the end of the era. I think the look and the music add to the sense of melancholic beauty that Iíd hoped for; the sense of a time lost that can never be regained." Smith says she drew inspiration for the story from a number of sources including a children's book read in her teen years, the closing of the Letona Cannery in 1993 and the decline of trade unionism in our country. "The first draft was very different in that it did not include the back story of Jude, Alan Jass and Johnny," she revealed. "The story existed but was never dramatized in a second time frame. The major changes came from first to second draft. That is when I introduced the diary." Smith presented her second draft to critically acclaimed director Craig Monahan hoping he would give her advice who to approach so that she could get a film option. Imagine the surprise she got when he rang her "and said 'I love this, you should direct it yourself and if you donít want to do that then I want to direct it' and that was that." Now that's a pretty impressive offer. So what was it that struck such a cord with Monahan? "Sue sent me the script and I was very attracted to the structure as much as the story and the characters. Structure is such an important part of cinema, almost everything comes from that. I also felt it was something audiences could connect with emotionally and a story that needed to be told," Monahan says. "It was wonderful. There was also the potential for some of the changes that economic rationalism has caused to be fed into the back story." But a story can't be told unless you have a cast. In the case of "Peaches" I must say they found a solid ensemble that blends youth with experience. The centrepiece of the story is the character of Steph. "Steph is essentially the key driving force in the film," notes Monahan. "She is the one that undergoes the changes. We watch her change from a young woman to someone more mature. So you wanted somebody who had a quality of innocence, but she has to become more mature as the film progresses." Emma Lung knew from the moment she first read the script that the role would be a challenge and it wouldn't be handed to her on a plate. At the final audition it came down to two actresses. "I remember at that audition Craig said to me 'I need to know that you want the role?' and perhaps I should have been a little bit more humble but I was like 'Oh I WANT it!' I couldnít believe my cockiness."
It worked. "Emma is extraordinary. She has a tremendous natural quality, an openness and a fearlessness," says Monahan. "She is the perfect Steph." Lung then set about researching her character. "I did a little bit of research but then I thought most kids who are adopted donít research about what it is like to be an adopted child. Also I realised that Steph certainly wouldnít because sheís dyslexic and has a complete phobia of reading. She is the sort of girl whose mind is constantly ticking over, she wants to understand why she is the way she is. Stephís wanting to know about her parents comes from her putting them on a pedestal her entire life. She doesnít know an awful lot about them at the beginning of the movie. She knows little pieces that Jude has told her and they have becomes an amazing fantasy in her mind and have been for years." But what about those sizzling sex scenes with actor Hugo Weaving? "The sex scenes were certainly daunting. Getting naked is always going to be strange," Lung said. "However, I couldnít have asked for someone to be more perfect for the first time to do those sorts of scenes. Hugo was unbelievable; he was such a gentleman and so relaxed and calm and sensitive in regards to those scenes. I think it was just as awkward for him as it was for me. I donít think it is ever easy stuff to shoot." Weaving who made a real name for himself in films such as "The Matrix I. II & III, "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and received an AFI Award for the 1991 film "Proof" amazed newcomer Lung on the set. "Hugo is an extraordinary actor and I soaked up as much as I possibly could on set. He just has an incredible calmness as a person. I remember noticing how take after take his continuity was perfect. It is difficult to get every physical gesture that youíve done the same, yet completely change the tone of what youíre doing however Hugo would just nail it every time! It was amazing!" Weaving's character Alen Taylor is a complicated one. Jude, Steph's adoptive mother is an employee and former girlfriend and Alan is now sexually involved with Steph. Weaving handles every aspect of his role delightfully. "I think it is a very complex relationship. Obviously they were in love with each other and wanted to be together but they had conflicting desires," Weaving explained. "When Jude was a younger woman, she wanted to get out of town with Jass but Alan wanted to stay in town. He was married to the politics he was involved in and the cannery itself. It was probably a relationship that could never have gone very far." Jacqueline McKenzie jumped at the chance to play the role of Jude in "Peaches". So how does she see her character? "She blames herself for living and for surviving her best friends. I know this is a very real thing and part of the process of mourning. At least, it has been for me personally. This blame, or guilt, if you like had a lot to do with the demise of Jude and Alanís relationship. When that relationship died, Jude just immersed herself further into motherhood. Now she says hello to Alan and is polite to him but other than that there is nothing there. No desire, thatís for sure. About the only desire she has is the desperate one for Steph to have a better life." "Peaches" is a multilayered film that focuses on how life changes for all of us from our youth through our working years. How we all have dreams and how life can put obstacles in the way of us sometimes trying to hold together those dreams. It's a theme that will sit well with the Australian psyche. It may not be the biggest of Australian films but it is a little corker.
Crew Bytes
"PEACHES" was .......
directed by Craig Monahan
["The Interview"]; screenplay by 2002 AWGIE Award winner Sue Smith ["The Brides of Christ" and "Bordertown"]; edited by Suresh Ayyar ["Bad Boy Bubby", "The Interview", "Thank God He met Lizzie" and "The Dreaming"]; director of photography Mobius Award winner Ernie Clark A.C.S ["Spank", "Robbery Under Arms" and "Indecent Obsession"]; original music by David Hirschfelder ["Shine", "Elizabeth", "The Interview" and "Sliding Doors"] executive produced by Judith McCann ["Shine" and "Once Were Warriors"], and produced by Don Reynolds ["Goodbye Pork Pie", "The Quiet Earth", "The House of Angelo" and "Mysterious Island"].
Casting About
"PEACHES" stars .......
AFI Award winner Hugo Weaving
["The Cityís Edge", "Proof", "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and "The Matrix I, II & III"]; Jury Prize Best Actress at the Grand Prix Festival du Valenciennes Jacqueline McKenzie ["Romper Stomper", "Under the Lighthouse Dancing", "Angel Baby" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"]; Matt Le Nevez ["Garage Days" and "Man Things"]; Sam Healy ["Dear Claudia", "The Sugar Factory", "Times of Love" and TV'S "Farscape" and "Beastmaster"]; Tyson Contor ["Peaches"] and Emma Lung ["Garage Days" and "Superfire"] as Steph.
What It's All About
"Peaches has a lot going for it. It's directed by talented Craig Monahan .... An excellent cast ...A moving accompanying score ... shot beautifully by Ernie Clark." Kirsten HeysenTHE SUNDAY MAIL
Stephís 18th birthday will prove significant for two reasons. She will start work at the local cannery and her grandfather will present her with a diary kept by her birth mother Jazz. Orphaned after a tragic accident killed her mother and father, Steph has been raised by her adoptive mother Jude. Receiving the diary opens up a new world for Steph. It reveals a story of an inseparable foursome; her mother Jazz, her father Johnny, her adoptive mother Jude and former unionist and now cannery boss Alan. Four carefree young people, living and working at the cannery whose lives were forever changed by a tragic accident. With the help of Alans wayward brother Brian, Steph pieces together much of the events that led to her birth. But someone has removed the most vital pages. Steph realizes Alan is the key to her story. The once fervent unionist is now despised by workers at the cannery. He's become the enemy to them. Steph meets with Alan an finds a real connection with him. It isn't long before they are involved in an affair, meeting in a room at the local pub. As Steph loses her innocence the story of the four friends unfolds. A story of carefree young people with dreams who promised they'd be friends for life and never seperate.
The Verdict
"Like its namesake, "Peaches" is a film rich in color, oozing sexuality and voluptuously attractive. Emma Lung is very impressive in this her debut feature role. Her appearance as the innocent eighteen year old Steph is balanced by Hugo Weavings worldy wise but somewhat disappointed with life cannery boss Alan Taylor. Shot entirely on the SA Riverland [except for that closing scene] "Peaches" is a story book of delicious images coupled to a tale of discovering one roots. "Peaches" is an Australian production well worth having a look at."
The Cast
Hugo Weaving
Jacqueline McKenzie
Emma Lung
Matt Le Nevez
Sam Healy
Tyson Contor
Ed Rosser
Catherine Lambert
Giang Le Huy
Felicity Electricity
Po Ling Yeow
Caroline Mignone
Duncan Hemstock
Peter Michelle
Adrian Shirley
Irena Dangov
Jamie Black
Andrew Martin
Sonya Humphreys
Alan Holy
Rebecca Francis
Alan Taylor
Grandpa Jass
Kenny Carter
Mrs Della Rose
Personnel Officer
Man in Suit
Parole Officer
Security Guard
The Crew
Directed by Craig Monahan
Produced by Don Reynolds/Margot McDonald & Craig Monahan
Executive Producer Judith McCann
Co-Producer Ros Walker
Written by Sue Smith
Director of Photography Ernie Clark ACS
Production Design by Robert Herriot
Set Decoration by Robert Webb
Edited by Suresh Ayyar
Score composed by David Hirschfelder
Casting by Gregory Apps
Run Time 103 minutes
Rated M15+ [AUST]
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