A Heartbeat Away


By Caffeinated Clint

Much like a newly polished guitar with broken strings, new Aussie musical ”A Heartbeat Away” looks okay (With Isabel Lucas in the cast, how could it not!?) but is otherwise fairly useless.

The retarded cousin of superior Brit pic ”Brassed Off” (Rest in peace Pete Postelthwaite), the over-acted and awfully passé film fixes on a youngster, Kevin (Sebastian Gregory), determined to be a rock star, that’s forced to lead an old timer’s brass band instead.

Kevin’s father (William Zappa), the local band leader, has been hit by a bus four weeks out from a major competition that his troupe is due to participate in. Much to the youngster’s disgust, he’s is roped into replacing dear old Dad, leading a bunch of old coots – who, of course, he slowly warms up to – into battle.

In between teaching his band some new tricks (and songs), Kevin finds time for romance, charming the pants off – in a matter of minutes – young Mandy Riddick (Isabel Lucas, she’s seemingly decided to channel one of her co-stars from ”Transformers” – yes, an autobot – here).

It’s as predictable as it sounds and as ‘old-hat’ as Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch’s novel Brother Copas (which, for the unversed, is where that term ‘old-hat’ came from) but there’s still something to appreciate about writer/director Gale Edwards film… it ends. Eventually.
It’s always been a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ for the Australian film industry (thankfully we’ve had more hits than flops of late) but you’ll immediately recognize ”A Heartbeat Away” as a blemish that’s going to hurt our terrific slate of late straight away. With its wooden dialogue, bemused performances (sponsored by Mysendol I believe), musty script and unexciting visuals, it’s a flick that can’t so much carry a note as it can mulishly carry on (when you wish it would just end) and on and on and on.

I’m being mean but I just think, for $8 million bucks, we could’ve financed something original, exciting and not half as embarrassing as this. I guess ”A Heartbeat Away” isn’t the worst film we’ve produced – ”Reckless Kelly” was pretty bad, ”You and Your Stupid Mate” was unwatchable, ”Under the Radar” deservedly lived up to its title, and anyone else have nightmares stemming from ”Sir Les Patterson Saves the World”!? – it’s just that, coming so soon after such great local product as ”Animal Kingdom”, ”Wasted on the Young”, ”Tomorrow When the War Began” and ”Beautiful Kate”, it stands out like a three-titted woman in a Mars nightclub.

To the film’s defense, the performers do all try (particularly young Sebastian Gregory, who does seem to possess some degree of screen presence and charm), it’s just that whatever direction they’ve been given – for instance, Colin Friels has seemingly been instructed to play his rogue like a mustache-twirling bad guy from a ’40s pirate flick – cloaks any moment of sincerity; the Ill-fitting and overpowering music score (which sounds like something out of a Looney Tunes commercial) not helping much.

If you’re desperate for a good Aussie film that plays to the whole family save your money for ”Red Dog”.