Australia, 1993, 100 minutes, Colour.
Julie Nihill, Philip Quast, Shane Connor, Peter Sumner.
Directed by Denny Lawrence.
Army Wives is an interesting and entertaining - and topical - Australian telemovie. It was written by Anne Brooksbank, directed by Denny Lawrence, both collaborators of Brooksbank's husband, Bob Ellis.
The film is based on some articles from the National Times focusing on the lives of army wives. Julie Nihill is excellent as Jill, the wife of the ordinary soldier, having to cope with bringing up the children, moving house, the absence of her husband. The focus on the other wife is that of the wife of the office, the arrogant man who expects his wife to measure up to his expectations at all times. The supporting cast includes Philip Quast as the officer, Shane Connor as Jill's husband. Peter Sumner is the father-in-law.
The film raises a great number of themes about Australian women, starting from education, job possibilities and expectations, rape and sexual harassment in the workplace, questions of pregnancy, abortion and miscarriage, family life, women grouping together for mutual support. The army is presented as very tough, having regard only for its men - and virtually ignoring the men's private lives and their wives and families. The joke line is: if the army had wanted their men to have wives, they would have issued them.
The initial setting is Canberra, and it moves to other camps and towns as well as to Butterworth. The setting is 1977-86.
1. Interesting and entertaining telemovie? For Australian audiences? Universal audiences?
2. Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory? The '70s to the '80s? Canberra, city and homes? The army homes and bases? Butterworth? The authentic settings? The musical score, the theme song?
3. The title and expectations? The feminine perspective, the writer, the actresses and their characters?
4. The ACT in the '70s? The end of the Vietnam War? Girls at school, friendships? Achievement at school, failures? Family life, religion? Jill and her Baptist mother, church-going? End of school, prospects, secretarial training and work? The setting for Wendy and Jill?
5. Wendy and Jill and their friendship, age, growing up together, shared experiences, differences? Hopes? The seat for lunch - and the meeting with Grant? The return of Wendy and Jill to the seat at the end of the film? The final comment about how it might have been worse? Wendy looking more sober? Jill smiling?
6. Jill at work, Fletcher and his comments, getting her to work back? Her innocence? His keeping her back, his handling of the situation, the rape, his comment on her virginity? Her answer to him? Her threats, his putting the alternatives and how he would deny everything, accusing her? The new secretary? Jill's pregnancy, upset and anger? Telling Grant, telling Wendy? Telling her mother - and her mother's anger? The miscarriage?
7. Grant, watching the girls on the seat, approaching Jill, his quick talking, arranging the date, the milkshake and their chat? Jill's nervousness? His following them to church? Meeting her mother? Jill avoiding him, telling him about the pregnancy? His concern, his proposal - to love Jill and to be the father of the child? The miscarriage? His proposal? In the army, leaving, all the job interviews and his not being qualified? The decision to return to the army?
8. The build-up to the wedding, the style, Peter and Wendy, Terry, their parents, the speeches? The father and his disdain for Jill? His reaction to her wanting him out of the army? Grant's mother and her concern?
9. The honeymoon, the interruption, his being called up? Jill's return home? The attempts for jobs? Grant going back into the army? Jill's anger? Her pregnancy, moving house by herself? Meeting the wives, listening to their stories? The isolation, the car lessons - and almost crashing? Grant absent, the difficulties? The women? Sharing the same experience? The fear about the prowler, talking to the police? Driving to the hospital, giving birth, Grant's return and seeing the baby?
10. The life of an army wife, pregnancies, the passing of the years, troubles with houses, schools? Love for the children? Moving, the hostile reception of the women, building the fence out of iron and isolating the family? The kids taunting the others in the street? The phone call to the happy hour, her being hung up on, driving and crashing the car into the mess? Grant and his supporting his wife? Playing with their children - and Jill's comment that he was the best possible husband? Her mother watching, the mother's reaction - and her mother telling the true story about their being abandoned?
11. Wendy and Peter, the marriage, Duntroon, graduation? The marriage? Transfer to Butterworth? Peter and his ambition, standing on rank - even with Grant? In Malaysia, the lifestyle? Peter enjoying it, the officers' mess? Wendy and her loneliness, not being able to do anything, the servants? Her drinking? With the other army wives? The return home, Peter's demands - his outburst about the coat hangers? The need for a child - the decision, her giving birth to the child? Her angers at Peter? Going to the formal dinner, her drinking, her wanting to go to the toilet, the making of a scene? Peter and the confrontation in the toilet? Her getting out the window and leaving, her ultimatum? His return to the mess, the nod amongst the officers, his remaining? His remarriage - to a military woman?
12. Wendy and the alternatives, her choice to leave, her pregnancy? The help from Grant and Jill? Her going for job interviews - and unable to get the job while she was an army wife? Her getting a job, with the children? Standing on her own feet?
13. The Christmas gathering, Grant's mother and her missing the white Christmas? Army wives? The dinner, the beginnings of the argument, the role of the army, Terry and his taunts? Grant and his argument with Peter and his mother siding with him? Peter and his reacting? Accusations about Terry's dishonest living as an estate agent? Jill and her supporting the anti-army stance? The father and his reaction and wanting apologies? Wendy and her not being able to decide - and the influence on her leaving?
14. The confrontation with the jeep and the truck - Peter and his officer demands on Grant? The right of way? The officers supporting Grant?
15. A portrait of a range of ordinary people, the Australian setting, experiences? Marriage and family? The role of the army, its codes and demands, the demands on the wives? Emotions, values? A glimpse of real life?