A GOOD THING GOING
Australia, 1977, 78 minutes, Colour.
John Hargreaves, Veronica Lang, Chris Haywood, Miles Buchanan, Simone Buchanan.
Directed by Arch Nicholson.
A Good Thing Going is one of the best of the Australian telemovies. This was sponsored by Film Australia and Channel 9 and had its premiere at the Melbourne Film Festival, 1978. After screening, it received critical acclaim and a number of Sammy Awards especially for its leading actors. The film captures strongly the atmosphere of Blacktown and the western suburbs of Sydney. Filmed there, it has an eye for accurate detail.
It also shows persuasively the difficulties of family life in the suburbs, the ocker attitudes of husbands and mates and the repercussions of drinking and mateship. A wife takes a strong stand and walks out on her husband and son. The repercussions are very difficult for her. The husband and his friends still remain genuinely obtuse. Not only does this telemovie entertain and interest, it rouses fairly strong feelings and this is the measure of its success as social observation as well as social criticism. The cast is indeed excellent.
1. The quality of this telemovie? Content, style, impact of themes and treatment?
2. The techniques for presenting a slice of Australian life for the home viewer? Characterisations, situations, techniques and dialogue for presenting unpleasant insights for home viewing?
3. The quality of the film as a slice of life? Its effect on those who watch it -identifying, change, rejecting or accepting its themes and critique?
4. The significance of the title, its reference to the marriage? The indication for relationships, family, responsibility? The critique of contemporary suburban marriages and way of life? The tone for the themes?
5. The portrait of Sydney suburbia: drinking in the clubs, the houses and their set-up, the suburban streets, shops, school? The style of talking, the cross-section of people, preoccupations and issues with their day-to day way of life? How authentically presented?
6. Initial focus on Phil and Terry; their drinking, the strip show, the atmosphere of the club? The presentation of the ocker way of life? The beer drinking, the striptease girl, the reaction of the men? The sequence of Phil going off and spending the early evening with his girlfriend? The comment on the quality of his marriage? The transition to his arriving home drunk, his reaction to Jane and her reaction to his behaviour? His blaming her in self-defence? His defensive and self-righteous attitude by attacking her? The narrow vision of his way of life and the impossibility of his seeing otherwise?
7. The sequences portraying Jane's exasperation. would the audience understand this? The bedroom sequence and the lovemaking., the breakfast sequence, the fights and the apportioning of blame? How hard had Jane tried to make the marriage work? Her decision to leave and the way that she handled it, was it credible? Her keeping in touch with the children. looking at them from the distance? Her work in the shop, the party and the encounter with Phil? The needs of her children and the importance of the ferry ride and the zoo outing especially with Damien's reaction? The repercussions of her leaving and the reasons for her return? Phil’s not understanding it? How much insight into the problem of the suburban wife and the limitations available for handling the situation well? The suburban housewife as victim?
8. The portrait of the children as ordinary young suburban children, boy and girl, their good points and their bad, their potential? The sequences of Damien at school and his brooding? Their handling the situation at home with Dad's not fulfilling his promises, their disappointment? The bond with their mother and their reaction to her leaving? Helping their father cope with meals. clothes etc.? The importance of the outing with their mother and Damien's reaction? The violent outburst against Baxter? The effect on the audience of seeing the children behave like this?
9. How strong a portrait of the suburban husband in Phil? His blindness towards his wife and family and their reactions, his motives for his marriage, work and friendship? His self-preoccupation and the focus on the bike? His enjoying Terry's company more than his wife's? Terry's influence on him? His trying to cope with his wife's departure, things going wrong, the reclaiming of the furniture etc.? Visiting the shop and trying to persuade Jane to look after the children while he went for the bike rally? Their talk in the pub and his lack of realisation of how she felt? His expectations, his reaction to her returning home, his confessing his faults - but could he see what really was required?
10. Terry as the mate type? Egging on Phil, the loudmouth reaction, the annoying of Baxter every visit, drinking? His lack of timing, his advice, the arrival with the girlfriend and their going?
11. The kind neighbour who looked after the children and her way of handling the situation, keeping in touch with Jane, offering advice to Phil? Such sequences as the burial of the dead bird?
12. The portrait of Baxter as a neighbour, an incidental character but throwing light on life in suburbia? His complaints, angry reactions, his taking Phil's money for the broken windows?
13. How interesting a portrait of a way of life? The attention to detail and atmosphere? How real and authentic? The urban problems identified? The value of seeing this slice of life?