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New Zealand Herald Review 8 April 2000


Herald rating: ***
Cast: Cliff Curtis, Theresa Healey, Hori Ahipene, Kevin Smith
Director: Michael Hurst
Running time: 95 mins; rating: M (language, violence)
Review: Peter Calder

The first feature outing by Michael Hurst bursts with the characteristically effervescent energy of one of our most ferociously talented stage actors and directors.

It's not his first time behind the camera. The man who played Iolaus, the big fellow's sidekick in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, honed his craft helming several episodes of that cult TV series and he takes to this generous and good-natured small-town comedy with the confidence of a veteran.

It's set in Waimatua (the kumara capital of the world, stand aside Ruawai!) where the likeable but low-energy Billy Williams (Curtis) is landed with the job of organising the local school's 75th anniversary celebrations.

The challenge is his chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, particularly his devoted but frustrated wife Pauline (Healey). But trouble arrives with the return of a local hero who happens to be an old flame of Pauline's.


The story has a simple, even classical, comedy arc and Hurst and writer Michael Bennett, working from Nepi Solomon's novel, don't try anything fancy bringing it to the screen. The absence of anything greatly original is one of the film's chief virtues. It's so genial and self-confident that it carries itself along. buoyed up, too, by terrific performances. Curtis, who's had a busy couple of years in America (The Insider, Three Kings and the upcoming Martin Scorsese masterpiece Bringing Out The Dead) shrugs off the shackles of his many heavy parts and shows a delicate and tender touch. In his first lead role he's both handsome and lovable, a genuine leading man in the making.

Minor roles are well-handled, notably Marise Wipani as the brassy town tart who owes plenty to Footrot Flats' Cheeky Hobson. And Mabel Wharekawa-Burt is a scream as Billy's ill-tempered mother.

Leon Narbey's photography captures the essence of small-town New Zealand in wide shot and close-up.

Jubilee is not without its flaws. The ending is overwrought and dragged out and there are some clunkingly portentous lines, but it's a thoroughly satisfying slice of local life and lots of feelgood fun.

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