The character of Kenny is a great illustration of the best parts of the Australian identity. He’s someone ready to believe the best about a new acquaintance, someone who believes in doing their job to the best of their ability, someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, someone who’s found happiness and satisfaction in his own skin
I recently interviewed Bryan Brown about his new TV series ‘Two Twisted’, and the conversation made its way to the subject of telling Australian stories on film and television.
This is a topic that’s bugged me a little bit in the past, mainly because many people seem to throw out the idea of “telling our own stories” without having a solid idea of just how to do so.
To his credit, Brown admitted that it was a hard thing to pin down.
“You look at movies like ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ or ‘Priscilla’ or ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and you can say ‘That defines us’,” he said.
“The way of storytelling, the irony, the silliness, whatever you want to say – we took the comedy genre and defined it in our own way. And that’s what you’re looking for: that Australian voice. And it’s really identifiable.
“But that kind of cultural expression is easier said than done. You know it when you see it. And when you get it right, you get it right.”
Well, a lovable low-budget ‘mockumentary’ called ‘Kenny’ gets it right. Get it really right, as a matter of fact.
It may be a little hard to believe, but this story of an average bloke who maintains portable loos for a living does a better job of highlighting the best aspects of the Australian attitude than anything else I’ve seen in a long while.
Played by Shane Jacobson, a burly fella with a strangely ingratiating lisp, Kenny is a plumber with ‘corporate bathroom’ company Splash Down, which basically means he’s the guy you see at the races, the outdoor rock concert or the street festival tending to the portable toilets.
The job’s no picnic – not only does it involve a lot of off-putting waste material, it also means Kenny has to contend with snooty or short-tempered patrons, drunken louts taking out their aggressions on Splash Down’s toilets and part-time workers who aren’t up to the demands of the task.
Off the job, life’s not much easier for Kenny, who seems to bear the brunt of abuse from his belligerent father, his stuck-up brother and his shrewish ex-wife.
But Kenny’s not one to let the weight of the world get him down. Sure, his is a dirty job but he performs it without complaint and it pays him pretty well.
He’s a natural diplomat, handling gripes and disputes from staff, customer and family member alike with ease. And as the film shows, his naturally friendly and non-judgemental nature just might be its own reward in the end.
The ‘mockumentary’ format is one that a number of comedic filmmakers have used to great effect (the TV series ‘The Office’ and the films of Christopher Guest, such as ‘Best in Show’ and ‘A Mighty Wind’, are among the best examples).
And it’s the best possible way Kenny’s story could have been told – it gives the everyday aspects of this guy’s life a feeling of authenticity, while highlighting the importance of the little things, like a visit with his son or a camping trip with his ill father.
As I mentioned, the character of Kenny is a great illustration of the best parts of the Australian identity. He’s someone ready to believe the best about a new acquaintance, someone who believes in doing their job to the best of their ability, someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, someone who’s found happiness and satisfaction in his own skin.
All this, and a fair share of poo jokes that deftly skirt the edge of bad taste. What more could you want from a movie?
Reviewer : Guy Davis