Roll Another Number for the Road

Stone Bros. (2009, directed by Richard Frankland) is the dumbest movie I’ve seen all year.  Maybe longer.  Which isn’t to say it’s not enormous fun.  It’s not for everyone, I guess.  There’s over-the-top overindulgence in ganja, lots of four-letter words (lots), simulated roadside urination (by a goanna, among others), naked whitefella buttocks, a tranvestite, a mad bomber, a mad dog, a deadly spider, and a dead roo.  And despite all the animals, not a sacred cow anywhere.

The film doesn’t have so much a plot as an excuse for a series of sketches hanging on the framework of two cousins who leave their dead-end lives in Perth to return a mysterious rock (or two) to their uncle in Kalgoorlie.  It’s a road movie, a bro-movie, a slapstick picaresque misadventure across Western Australia.  Luke Carroll plays the earnest Eddie, who hopes to find meaning in a return to country and family and a renewed sense of his own Aboriginality.

His sidekick Charlie (Leon Burchill) has no such hangups, either about his purpose in life (mostly, it seems, getting laid), or his blackness.  For one thing, he’s a lot blacker than Eddie, and he never stops taking the piss out of Eddie over the fact.  During their first day on the road, they consume about 50 of the 187 joints that Charlie rolled during the film’s opening credits (each one of them carefully hand-“numbered” at the “blunt” end) (did I say “dumb?”)   So stoned they can barely see straight, they crash into a roo on the road; the impact causes Eddie to be drenched in chocolate sauce from a squeeze bottle that Charlie’s holding.  After roasting the dead roo and laying out their swags for the night, Eddie has a dreamtime nightmare.  He finds himself in a blindingly white Tucker Mart in a blindingly white suit but with skin that’s chocolate dark.  The market is full of blond white folks, who crowd around ebony Eddie, offering him free food and their daughters (“We’ve always wanted to have one of you in the family”) before knocking him flat on the floor in their enthusiasm.  To their repeated chorus of “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry,” Eddie wakes up screaming.  (Did I say that there are no sacred cows?).

Farther down the road, the boys pick up a faux-Italian muso who’s also on his way to Kalgoorlie.  At a roadhouse still farther along, they encounter their cousin Reggie, who is lip-syncing, in drag, on the far side of a pool table.  Reggie, or Regina as she wants to be known (“Like the Queen,” she says, although it rhymes with a more obvious gag line that the writers skip over, knowing that you’ll get it anyway), is played by David Page.  And no offense to the rest of the cast, but Page is the absolute star performer in the film.  For one thing, you have to be in awe of the sheer number of dazzling outfits Reggie packs into one tiny bag.  But seriously, Page is utterly convincing and brilliantly theatrical, whether he’s fleeing at top-speed down a dusty road in four-inch heels and a silky paisley top, pursued by a small dog possessed by star-sapphire crazy eyes and the evil spirit of Charlie’s jilted ex, or he’s spitting out anger and disappointment in a servo toilet, or sharing the depths of a truly kind and affectionate soul.

I won’t go on to spoil the rest of the fun by telling you the other improbable escapades the lads get up to, much as I’d enjoy rehashing them.  (Ahem.)  You can sample some of them in the trailer below (like the moment when John Howard kills Basil the cat).  Stone Bros. came out the same year as Bran Nue Dae, and probably got a bit lost in the feel-good glare and success of the latter film, which is a bit of a shame.  The two movies share the road-trip ethos, if not Dan Sultan.  They also share a belief in the importance of family and in acceptance of our brethren for who they are, no questions asked.  They’re both broad and funny, building sentiment out of slapstick.  Bran Nue Dae probably has higher artistic aspirations, but Stone Bros. just wants to have fun.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.

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