Film Review: Top End Wedding

Despite what many people say Australia has actually made some pretty good comedy films over the years. Think back to films like The Castle, Crocodile Dundee and Muriel’s Wedding and you instantly think of classic comedies that people just love to watch over and over again. Now add a new film to that list – Top End Wedding.

Top End Wedding is not just a film that you watch once and have a little chuckle at – no this is one of those films that you’ll walk out of the cinema wondering when you can buy it on DVD… then in years to come you’ll want to watch it every time it comes on television. Yes, this is one of the most heartfelt comedies that you will watch this year, and a film that a great many people will be able to relate to.

It follows the events surrounding the wedding of ambitious business-woman Lauren (Miranda Tapsell – The Sapphires, Love Child) and the recently made redundant Ned (Gwilym Lee – Bohemian Rhapsody, The Tourist).

Given only a few days off by her domineering boss, Hampton (Kerry Fox – Shallow Grave, Cloudstreet), after deciding to get married straightaway Lauren travels straight to Darwin only to discover that everything is not right with her family after all. Her father, who is now a grieving mess, Trevor (Huw Higginson – Home & Away, The Bill), informs that her mother, Daffy (Ursula Yovich – Australia, The Code) has taken off and he has no idea where she is.
Determined to her mother at her wedding Lauren and Ned head off into the Top End to search for Daffy leaving Trevor, Hampton and Lauren’s childhood friends to try and piece together the wedding for them.

Directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Septembers Of Shiraz) and co-written by Tapsell and Joshua Tyler (Plonk, Flipiscal) this is a comedy that works because it doesn’t try too hard. Often comedies fall flat because they try too hard to try and make their audience laugh. That isn’t the case here at all. Here Top End Wedding fits comfortably into the rom-com genre but at the same time is made unique by the fact that the comedy does comes naturally and together Tapsell and Tyler have created characters that everybody can relate to but with enough of a comedic edge to make them someone you can laugh at.

Often when a comedy is written by one of the lead actors or actresses they reserve much of the funny lines for themselves. That certainly isn’t the case here – yes Tapsell’s character does have some funny moments in the film but the big comedic moments come from Lee, Fox and Higginson. In fact many of the scenes are stolen by Higginson who really reveals himself to be one of Australia’s hidden comedic talents. Likewise the antics of Lauren’s best friends almost calls for a separate movie or television show to be made centring around them. From comedic moments, slapstick and memorable one liners Top End Wedding has it all.

To call Top End Wedding pure comedy though would be under-selling the film though. This is a film that has real heart and a well though-out serious side to it as well. The story of Lauren heading to the Top End to put together part of her family story that she is a stranger to is beautifully told and in the screening I was in there was a number of people in tears, especially during the scenes shot on the Tiwi Islands. I wasn’t joking when I said this is a heartfelt story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings but also doesn’t forget to have a light-hearted side as well. There are also some moments of true suspense as well as Lauren pieces together where her mother has gone and revolving around whether or not the happy couple will actually make it to the alter… oh and there is the great little storyline of whether or not Ned will tell Lauren he has lost his job that just simmers away under the surface as well.

Wayne Blair and his cinematographer Eric Murray Lui (Black Comedy, Rosehaven) beautifully shoot his film capturing the stunning landscapes and scenery of the Top End in a way normally reserved for nature documentaries. But even that doesn’t over shadow the amazing performances of the two leads. Miranda Tapsall shows here why she needs to be considered one of Australia’s finest acting talents. She mixes comedy and drama together amazingly well and well supported by Gwilym Lee who showcases another side to his acting ability – that of comedic relief. Together the pair are well-matched and bring some true comedic electricity to the film.

Top-End Wedding is one of the best Aussie films to surface in quite awhile. This is an important film in Australian cinema history and at the same time will make you laugh and at times make you cry. Move over Kenny and Muriel another Aussie comedy needs to fit alongside you.

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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