Film Review: Jucy

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th November 2011.

At first glance of the poster, it would be very easy to dismiss Jucy as just another zany low brow Aussie comedy, along the lines of the atrocious You and Your Stupid Mate (2005), however, this new womance (the opposite of bromance) has a strong heart beating behind the humour and may well be the undiscovered (for now) gem of the year.

Directed by Brisbanite Louise Alston (All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane) and scripted by her husband, Stephen Vagg, Jucy is very loosely based on the lives of its stars Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson.

Lucy (Gasteen) and Jackie (Nelson) are two twentysomething outsiders drifting through life. Working together at a Brisbane video store, the best friends are known collectively as “Jucy”. Shunned by their friends in the local amateur theatre group, both set goals to improve their lives and become more acceptable to the mainstream. That is, Lucy aims to get herself a decent job and Jackie wants a boyfriend.

Of course, their paths become complicated by both being cast in a local production of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and soon the girls’ friendship is at risk of being torn apart.

Best friends on and off the screen, Gasteen and Nelson have a fabulous chemistry. Both providing input into the script, their banter is incredibly natural and honest, with hilarious results. Any initial expectations of two dimensional sketch comedy caricatures are swept away by believable depictions of funny but flawed characters.

Also impressive is rising actor Ryan Johnson in a supporting comedic role as a self-important wannabe thespian who fakes addictions for attention. It has recently been announced that Johnson has joined the cast of US legal drama Fairly Legal.

Jucy is not just played for laughs. Adding a little bitter to the sweetness is the depiction of Jackie’s mental illness. Coming off her medication mid-plot, her situation spirals even further out of control. Inspired by actress Nelson’s real life struggle, the resolution to this plot strand is ambiguous and one of the few elements of the film that misfires.

A low budget affair, Jucy was shot in just fourteen days. Real locations in Brisbane such as Trash Video and The Arts Theatre were used, as well as the house that Gasteen and Nelson share in real life. Shot in digital with a Panasonic P2 camera, the suburbs have never looked better.

Australian cinematic offerings of late have centred on big, sweeping, historical stories. It is refreshing to be equally as drawn into a smaller story involving average folk.

Jucy has recently been licenced to a US distributor to be available through Amazon.com and Walmart. One has to wonder what your average American will make of this little Aussie film.

Jucy will mostly appeal to female audiences but there are certainly plenty of laughs for the guys too. Stephen Vagg has seemingly managed to capture how women talk when men are not around. Well at least I think he has.

Louise Alston’s apt direction wisely puts the characters before the jokes ensuring that the audience laughs along with the protagonists more often than at them.

Stars Gasteen and Nelson make an appealing comic duo and have the potential to be breakout stars. Let’s hope they continue to work together.

Jucy is currently screening in Orange and is highly recommended for anyone seeking a little home grown respite from fighting robots and toy commercial cinema.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 07:15  Leave a Comment  
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Jucy: Alternate means of distributing and promoting independent films

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th November 2011.

Fans and supporters of Australian cinema were given a treat on Friday night as Orange hosted a gala screening of the new film, Jucy. Although promotional tours are common in the film industry, Orange is rarely on the itinerary.  Brisbane based director Louise Alston, writer Stephen Vagg and stars Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson are on a road trip to promote their low budget independent feature. With successful screenings in Canberra and Wagga Wagga under their belts so far, they were keen to interact with audience members during a Q & A session following the screening.

I was particularly intrigued by this grassroots approach to film distribution and promotion that is so far removed from the marketing of your typical robots fighting robots mainstream blockbuster, and had the pleasure of chatting to the filmmakers and actors before the screening.

Director Louise Alston says she was buoyed by the success of Bob Connolly’s independent film, Mrs Carey’s Concert, which utilised a similar marketing plan, and as a filmmaker, these screenings really brought her in touch with her potential audience. “We have more love (for Jucy) than somebody selling a whole lot of films. This is our baby so we put a lot of effort in.”

Writer Stephen Vagg explained that this was the second stage in the film’s promotional life and that Jucy had already been well received on the international film festival circuit, with successful screenings at festivals in Toronto, Seattle, London, Seoul and Tel Aviv. “For non-Hollywood films, festivals are very important and they have been for us, but now we’re doing a domestic release and we really want to push it as much as we can by doing personal appearances. We don’t want it (Jucy) to sit on the shelf. We want as many people to see it as possible.”

Vagg also revealed that Wagga Wagga was chosen for a screening because it is director Alston’s home town, and that some of her aunts and uncles hail from Orange.

Described as a “womantic” comedy (think “womance” instead of “bromance”), Jucy is loosely based on the lives of stars Gasteen and Nelson, best friends in real life and both stalwarts of the Brisbane theatre scene. Jackie (Nelson) and Lucy (Gasteen) are best friends, collectively known as Jucy, who do everything together, including amateur theatre. As outsiders, their attempts to fit into the cool crowd by becoming more mainstream create unforeseen pressures which may tear their friendship apart.

The cinematic success of Red Dog this year proves that there is a market for Australian fare that doesn’t involve horror, crime or depressing drug stories. It was great to see posters for a low budget home grown flick like Jucy sitting alongside promotional standees for box office behemoths such as Real Steel and The Smurfs.

The nature of cinema in general does not really allow for a personal connection between the filmmakers and the audience. I am sure that the audience on Friday enjoyed meeting the stars and creative team behind Jucy. Let’s hope this marketing approach is successful and more independent films (and filmmakers) can come to Orange.