FILM REVIEW: Love the Beast

Jeremy Clarkson (of the 'Top Gear' fame) all but steals the film in his few brief moments, particularly when he attempts to convince the sheepish-faced Bana that basically, “all muscle cars are crap”.
FILM REVIEW: Love the Beast
Love The Beast Towards the beginning of Love The Beast, Eric Bana’s car-love confessional, the director-star expresses in almost child-like laconic tones, “When I was a kid I dreamed of being a race car driver”. This voice-over, which at first seems oddly slowed down and out of place, has a certain fairytale quality about it which, as we gradually discover, is entirely reflective of Bana’s vehicular obsessions. In another sense, Bana’s commentary also recalls that bright-eyed naïve sensibility that underscored The Castle’s voice-over (in which he also appeared). But unlike that particular urban fairytale, Love The Beast is neither an underdog fable nor a documentary but a kind of rumination on Australia’s love of the muscle car filtered through Bana’s personal history. Tracing Bana’s four-wheeled fascination through his teenage years bonding with mates over his prized GT Falcon Coupe, Love The Beast focuses primarily on the actor-driver’s participation in the 4-day Targa Tasmania Rally. Along with his friend/navigator, Bana puts his exorbitantly customised-Coupe through some heavy duty road bashing in what becomes more a test of self-endurance than a simple contest of machinery. But the film isn’t just about Bana’s personal ‘beastly’ preoccupations, as the director shares his experiences with various other screen personalities. With the exception of Dr Phil, whose vacuous babble renders him an incalculable annoyance the film could’ve well done without, the guest interviews offer a nice complement to Bana’s racing narrative. Jeremy Clarkson (of the Top Gear fame) all but steals the film in his few brief moments, particularly when he attempts to convince the sheepish-faced Bana that basically, “all muscle cars are crap”. Jay Leno is equally likeable in his screen-time, particularly when contrasting his collecting tendencies (his airplane-sized hangar of cars and motorbikes begs believing) to Bana’s racing designs, a difference he summarises with the following appropriate simile, “I enjoy having sex, but I don’t want to be a pornstar”. While Bana’s direction is noticeably P-plated at times – the film’s structure lacks polish and the Targa Rally, arguably the film’s centrepiece, never quite reaches top speed dramatically – Love The Beast has a definite charm about it, even for self-confessed NCPs (Non-Car People). Taken as the sum of its various parts then, Love The Beast works more often than it doesn’t, particularly at those times when Bana’s vehicular-obsession moves beyond its macho rhetoric to expose a softer interior. I can think of few more poignant moments in Australian cinema of late, than that in which Bana, deep in mourning for his beloved Coupe, strides a Hollywood red carpet to comments such as, “I must say you have great hair”. Compared to that kind of superficial fancy, Bana’s four-wheeled love seems all the more real, and will no doubt prove more lasting than his current ‘day job’. Love the Beast Premiers 12 March 2009 Screening Locations in Australia

Josh Nelson

Wednesday 4 March, 2009

About the author

Josh Nelson is a freelance academic, critic and filmmaker. In addition to running the Philmology website [www.philmology.com] Josh currently lectures on cinema and cultural studies at a number of tertiary and secondary institutions.