Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a tough pre-teen who has been in and out of foster homes and finally, is given his last chance with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). One thing leads to another, and Ricky and Hec end up living in the wilds of New Zealand with a man hunt chasing them.
Director Taika Waititi did the most wonderful and fantastic film Boy just a few years ago, and this has that similar effect of gently pulling your heartstrings whilst making you laugh A LOT. It’s a great film, Ricky is fabulous, as is Sam Neill (no surprise there) but for me, the highlight was Rima Te Wiata. She’s adorable, very funny and ace, and I want to see her in more, please.
Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), a woman who does not speak is married to a man she has not met and sent with her young daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) to New Zealand, a country only just being colonised by the English. Her new husband, Alisadair Stewart (Sam Neill) is emotionally distant and has no idea of how to deal with a woman. But then she starts a relationship with George Baines (Harvey Keitel) which compromises her own security.
It is certainly a stunning film and I recall it being highly acclaimed at the time. I found it difficult to get past Harvey Keitel’s mysterious accent (I think Scottish?), though he had a lot of passion. But the love story is terrible – the idea that he has to blackmail her into sexual favours (although they are often quite tame, such as lifting her skirt to reveal a tiny hole in her stocking that he then fondles as she is playing the piano. Then, after resisting for some time, she falls in love? I mean, he was a potential escape from the brutal life Stewart had dragged her into, but it was actually extremely unpleasant to watch. Perhaps, if there has been some suggestion that Baines had feeling for her and it was not just a convenient way to bed a white woman, maybe then I’d have accepted it. As it was, it pretty much ruined the film for me, despite the beauty, it was a story about two creepy men dominating a woman. Oh and the piano music was horribly repetitive and drove me to despair.
The Piano won Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Holly Hunter), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anna Paquin) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Jane Campion) and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Jane Campion), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing.
This is what Australian television can be. Funny, clever, challenging and generally great. Of course, now America has taken the format and are making their own which could mean the concept is destroyed, but we will always have Richard Roxburgh. (They’ve got Greg Kinnear. He may save it)
So, Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) is a Sydney lawyer who enjoyed prostitutes, cocaine and gambling. He is regularly beaten up by those he owes money to, and revels in taking the most unwinnable and unusual cases. In the first season, he defends a cannibal (Hugo Weaving), a shock jock accused of causing a race riot (Rachel Griffiths) and a couple enjoying a very, very close relationship with their family dog (Sam Neill and Heather Mitchell). Cleaver also has an interesting relationship with his ex-wife and son, a challenging love affair with an ex-prostitute who is dating a lawyer hell-bent on destroying Cleaver and is trying to find a way to reconcile with his ill father. There is just so much to the show.
It says a lot for the marvellous writing and excellent plots that the show has attracted such big names for guest appearances. There have been two seasons so far for Rake, and a third is currently in production. I enjoyed the first a lot more than the second, and I think it is because the court cases were stand-alone. In the second season, there were more plots which carried on over several episodes and less of the titillating excitement of the first. Mind you, given where the second season ended, I cannot wait to see where they take it.