War on the Fish’n’Chip Shop Floor

30 Mar

FILM REVIEW: Take Away (Marc Gracie, 2003)

‘serving up greed, revenge…and chips’

Take Away (Marc Gracie, 2003) is an Australian comedy, starring Vince Colosimo, Stephen Curry, Rose Byrne and Nathan Phillips. The plot centres on Tony Stilano (Colosimo) and Trev Spackneys (Curry), two bitter enemies who own and run rival fish and chips shops’ on the same quiet suburban Melbourne shopping strip. Tony, owner of ‘Tony’s Fish and Chippery’, is an Italian-Australian with high standards and a clean business practice. The complete opposite of Tony is Trev, owner of ‘Trev’s Fish and Chips’. He is a typical Australian character, the loveable bloke with a careless attitude and unprofessional work practice.

The two, fierce competitors, who have been trying to shut each other down since establishment, are forced, reluctantly, to work together when a multinational fast food chain, Burgies Burgers (laughably similar to McDonald’s), opens an outlet next to Tony’s, threatening both Tony and Trev’s take away businesses. The power of the Burgies chain is realised by Trev, when he states: ‘When that Burgies opens up down the street, this place is stuffed’. Nonetheless, Tony and Trev, backed by community support, do not give up and execute a ‘brilliant’ revenge plot against the Burgies outlet that is unexpected, slightly dramatic, and far-fetched, but completely likeable and hilarious at the same time. Overall, it is a light-hearted and heart-warmingly entertaining tale about the little guys, constantly battling their own differences, and taking on a big corporation.   

    

The film surrounds a true Australian battle of the underdog, the little guy versus a global company, with comedy, a traitor and a potential romance thrown in. Yes, this ‘David and Goliath’-style plot has been at the centre of other Australian films, such as The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997) (in which Stephen Curry also stars). However, Take Away is not unoriginal, but a unique film that stands alone in its comedic portrayal of the battle between local and global forces.

Although some believe Australians don’t do the comedy genre too well, I believe Take Away is ingenious. It is satirical in nature, sending up nearly everything in the film, from the stereotypical Aussie versus the multicultural Australian, to the fast food chain, Burgies.  As Australians, we know how to laugh at ourselves, and wouldn’t put it past ourselves to do something completely ridiculous to prove a point (i.e. the revenge plot).

What I found really worked for this film was its characterisation, especially of Tony and Trev, and the way it introduced these rivals to the audience. The relationship between Tony and Trev is one of competition. When Tony hires his cousin, Sonja (Rose Byrne), as a trainee manager, Trev hires a trainee manager as well, Dave (Nathan Phillips), from Joblink. Every time they meet they are trying to outdo each other, their constant banter (‘Bullshit’, ’Bullshit you!’) is hilarious and believable.

Competitors: Trev & Tony (Screen Shot)

Vince Colosimo and Stephen Curry, do a brilliant job at portraying Tony and Trev respectively. Colosimo, who shined as Frank in The Wog Boy (Aleksi Vellis, 2000), realistically portrays multicultural Tony. His accent gives away Tony’s ethnic background, but the words that come out of his mouth are full of Australian idioms (e.g. “Competition is so shit-house”).

Curry, as the typical Australian slacker Trev, is most famous (pre-Take Away) for his role as Dale Kerrigan in the Australian classic, The Castle (Sitch, 1997). Trev has been criticised for being an over exaggerated version of the Australia character. However, I find this is key to the narrative of juxtaposing Tony and Trev. Trev’s vocabulary is full of slang, (‘corker’, ‘bloody ripper’), which provides the audience with much amusement.

The opening scenes of Tony and Trev set up and emphasise their inherent differences, by revealing their contrasting morning routines. The scenes are truly brilliant.

Tony is depicted as a organised, well-groomed espresso-drinker. He listens to Anthony Robbins’ motivation tapes and prepares fresh, high quality food. He has a system for everything; ‘drink fridge can rotation’, ‘lemon wedge preparation’ and ‘serviette folding’, just to name a few .

Trev, however, wakes up under an iconic vegemite jar doona cover in a cluttered, messy room. He brushes his teeth with his finger, makes chips out of dirty potatoes and flings his used teabag at the ceiling, adding to the others already dangling above his head. He has a complete disregard for hygiene and safe-work practices.

As the two open up their respective fish and chip shops for the day, we see immaculate Tony in his simple black uniform, and in contrast, laid-back Trev in an Aerosmith band t-shirt, trackies and Dunlop runners. It epitomises how opposite the two are and helps cement the difficulty they would have joining forces to beat Burgies.

         

What I found most disappointing about the film was aspects of the cinematography. While majority of the film was shot well, I felt it lacked any real setting shots of the local area. The audience can tell its set in Melbourne (from the car number plates, and the barely visible “Alphington” suburb sign), but not with absolute assurance. I believe more setting shots in this film would have helped emphasise and develop the notion of ‘community’, that is an important, ever-present component of the narrative. Contrastingly, when Tony and Trev fly to Sydney to confront the Burgies CEO (John Howard), the setting shots are almost like tourism commercials, as the camera sweeps over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in an aerial shot. This of course could be seen as the difference between the local, grass roots Melbourne community and the superficial, busy Sydney city. 

     

The film also provides great social commentary on the fast-food industry. The Burgies workplace is seen as a stressful environment, staffing children barely legally allowed to work (one front counter staffer looks about 10 years old). The fast food chain brainwashes children and adults alike with competitions, giveaways, toys and catchy advertising campaigns (sound familiar?).

Take Away pokes fun at almost everything represented in the film; stereotypical characters and the fast food industry. I believe Take Away is a feel good, easy entertainment film that most Australians can relate to.

Truly enjoyable.

Word Count: 985

By: Megan Walford, z3291268

ARTS2062, 2011 !

Filmography:

Take Away (Gracie, 2003)

The Castle (Sitch, 1997)

The Wog Boy (Vellis, 2000)

**All images are screen shots from the DVD, and are used for non-commerical, purely educational purposes**

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