Tutorial: Thursday, 4:30
PART I- FILM INFORMATION
A manipulative woman fired from her job contends sexual harassment in hopes of snagging a settlement, while her equally manipulative former boss contends his innocence in hopes of protecting his assets. The battling parties take their cases to court, where a complex, engrossing series of conflicting flashbacks occurs. Based on the stage play by David Williamson.
Gia Carides as Susy Connor
Anthony LaPaglia as Gary Fitzgerald
Zoe Carides as Katy Connor
Ray Barrett as Brian Connor
Michael Veitch as Paul Connor
Catherine Wilkin as Marion Lee
Neil Melville as Vince
Jennifer Jarman- Walker as Ruth Miller
Grant Tilly as Steve Lovett
Beverley Dunn as President
Brad Lindsay as Registar
Barry Friedlander as Mr. Burton
Iain Murton as Mr. Hall
Tim Elston as Young Brian
Natalie Gauchi as Young Katy
Emily- Jane Romig as Young Susy
Daniel Holten as Young Paul
Lisa Aldenhoven as Stephanie Fitzgerald
Writing- Peter Fitzpatrick, Richard Franklin, and David Williamson.
Producers - Sue Farrelly and Richard Franklin
Associate Producer – Kim McKillop
Director - Richard Franklin
Cinematographer- Geoff Burton
Film Editing- David Pullbrook
Casting – Gregory Apps
Production Designer – Tracy Watt
Costume Designers – Roger Kirk
Art Direction- Brian Alexander
Set Decoration- Jill Eden
Production Manager- Ray Hennesy
Assistant Director- Chris Web
Composer - Nerida Tyson-Chew
Sound Mixer – Steve Burgess and Roger Savage
Sound Recordist – Lloyd Carrick
Production Company – Bayside Pictures and Beyond Films
Classification - Drama
Run Time – 94 minutes
Rating – Australia-MA, USA-R
Filmed - Country - Australia
Locations – Cape Schnak, Victoria, Australia and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Distributor – Castle Hill Entertainment (USA, 1997)
United States of America – 11 July 1997
Australia – 8 August 1996
Awards & Nominations:
Australian Film Institute, (1996) Won-
Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Ray Barret
Best Actress in a Lead Role- Gia Carides
Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Zoe Carides
International Movie Database –<http://www.imdb.com/>
Rotten Tomatoes- http://www.rottentomatoes.com/
Movie Tome- http://www.movietome.com/
Australian Film Commission- http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/filmdbsearch.aspx.
David Nusair’s Reel Film Reviews.
Urban Cinefile, by urban cinefile critics.
The Chicago Reader, by Lisa Alspector. http://onfilm.chicagoreader.com/movies/capsules/15708_BRILLIANT_LIES.html
The Los Angeles Times, by Bob Heisler.
The New York Times, by Stephen Holden.
Box Office Magazine, by Stephanie Slahor.
Critical Essays in Journals-
My Research & Brilliant Lies Online Presence:
I began my research with IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes which are both very relevant in depth sites dedicated to film information. I found just about all of the statistical and link information necessary between these two sites, with the exception of a few inadmissible details. Having never heard of Brilliant Lies I initially thought information would be much more scarce and hard to come by, but I was fortunately mistaken. Although I never managed to obtain the box office numbers I otherwise had no problems tracking down accurate information. My research in the library was limited and scarce considering that the film is not a classic and or did not sweep award banquets, it was difficult to find book sources on Brilliant Lies. Although there were a few journal sources, the film was simply listed along with a slew of others as falling into a certain genre, or it was used to depict sexual harassment in the 1990’s workplace.
Why I chose this film:
I choose to do my critical review on Brilliant Lies based on availability and familiarity. After browsing through the OzFilm Database and doing a quick search on the films available to me I came up with a list of titles that seemed interesting, Brilliant Lies being one of them. After rummaging through the Murdoch University Library’s selection I choose Brilliant Lies because it was one of the most recent films at my disposal and also seeing Anthony LaPaglia on the cover brought back warm memories of Lantana. I enjoyed Brilliant Lies for the most part; I was intrigued by the incestuous sub plot which was handled with such bluntness. I was also engrossed by to the multiple versions of the story and the characters constantly turning on each other. Trying to pinpoint the virtuous from the liars was half the fun. I felt let down with the ending, but this also happens all too often in modern cinema.
PART II - CRITICAL REVIEW:
Brilliant Lies released in Australia in 1996 is based on a stage play (under the same title) by David Williamson who eventually contributed in writing the screen play for the feature film. Susy (Gia Carides) acts as an innocent victim in a highly constructed plan to get money out of a former coworker and the insurance company she was employed under. The film begins with flashbacks from a harassment dispute between main characters Susy, as employee, and Gary, her superior, (Anthony LaPaglia). The action begins with an office chair falling over and crashing to the ground in slow motion as Gary coincidentally appears. The flashback is illustrated in only black and white film in a dark office after hours, with the only characters in sight being Susy and Gary. The on scene light is from the computer at Susy’s desk which illuminates both Suzy and Gary.
These flashbacks occur while Susy is describing to Marion, (Catherine Wilkin) the court appointed mediator, the harassment case at hand. Susy’s background is brought to the surface as she is described having had lived off of men for a period of time. Susy adamantly defends herself by citing how difficult it is for a woman to break through the glass ceiling and make something of herself in a modern corporate world in which men are favored throughout business. Once it is Gary’s turn to explain his very separate side of the story to Marion he explains that Susy often came to work dressed like a skank fully equipped with cleavage, short skirts, and freely venting to coworkers about her partying lifestyle which included delving into ecstasy binges on occasion. Gary does a marvelous job of describing Susy to fulfill the role of a money hungry slut all the while defending his character of a happily married business man.
“I’m going to take them to court and they are going to pay a lot of money” Susy states to her sister Katy (and real biological sister, Zoe Carides). This excerpt embodies Susy’s motives throughout the film in which she is determined at any cost to herself, her coworkers, and her family to prevail as the victorious victim. Katy is not only Susy’s older sister but also her roommate and to a certain extent a mother figure. Katy’s character is the quintessential artistic, outspoken, feminist lesbian, in essence the aesthetic opposite of Susy. Despite Susy’s innocent façade is it prevalent to the viewer that she is not at all chaste, based on her appearance, attitudes, and insinuated past behavior. While Susy and Katy briefly discuss Susy’s case the third sibling of the Connor family arrives at the two sisters’ apartment. Paul Connor (Ray Barrett) barges in explaining that their father is upset. When Susy does not sympathize with Paul over their father’s state, Paul goes off on a tirade trying to prove to Susy how much she owes her dad. Brian achieves this by discussing how their father has spoiled Susy, how she was always enrolled in private schooling, and took a two year fully paid hiatus in Europe after graduation. This operates to reveal Susy’s character to be even more demanding and selfish.
Back in the mediating room Susy denies all of Gary’s claims that she is a “party girl”, demanding that she merely tried drugs one time and discreetly opened up to a female coworker about her experience. Susy attempts to dismiss Gary’s story as an exaggerated attempt to peg her as an immoral figure not to be believed or trusted. The following scene shows Gary and his boss Vince (Neil Melville) exercising together at a gym, displaying the bond of two mates, which in Australia is all too often thicker than blood. Gary discusses his climb up the corporate ladder, descending from blue collar roots, going through university to eventually secure a respectable middle class position in the 1990’s.
In another conversation between Susy and Katy, Susy boastfully exclaims “I’m a sex goddess”, further affirming her manipulative nature and the way she utilizes sex for her own self interest. At father, Brian Connor’s (Michael Veitch) birthday party he boasts how he blew millions of dollars in the past leading to a bickering argument between the family. The Connor family is without a mother, who has passed away at an undisclosed date, leading the viewer to hypothesize about Susy’s complex with men and or authoritative figures. Amongst the quarrelling Paul goes on to refer to Susy as promiscuous, and insists that she is trying to rip off the system by filling such claims against Gary and her former company. The family fighting continues in a separate scene as a thunder storm roars outside, Brian the quirkiest character of the entire cast argues with his son Paul for converting to Christianity.
At a separate meeting over the case at hand Susy, Gary, Katy, Vince, (acting as witnesses) and the Marion are all present to attempt to reach a conclusive compromise. Prior to the meeting Susy asks Katy to lie for her and describe a story in which Susy was extremely upset and traumatized by her workplace situation, Katy takes some convincing but eventually agrees to assist her sister. There is a debate between the two sides about what events actually did occur and in what context they were intended, with various flashbacks, leaving the viewer wondering who if anyone is indeed telling the truth. With each flashback of the unfaithful night in the company office the events become more gruesome and more dramatic. In an effort to salvage any course of decency Marion asks Katy how Susy described the incident to her. Once Katy’s side is brought into play the story starts crumbling and Gary gains ground on the rambunctious Susy. But he abuses his power by referring to Susy in degrading terms (which seem more acceptable in Australian society) such as “honey”. As the fighting escalates Suzy demands $40,000.00 in compensation Gary is shocked at her audacity and can not believe that she is seriously asking for such a vast sum of money. After not having achieved a common ground both parties leave the meeting ready to take the case to court. Susy is extremely optimistic about her chances at winning and collecting and brainstorms possible ways to spend her not yet acquired small fortune, she gloats to Katy that a café or shop would be ideal with the money she feels she will most definitely receive after winning the case. Once Katy manages to get a word in edgewise she confronts Susy about some sketchy details in her statements. She most specifically highlights the “twin peaks of a woman” line Susy attested to Gary. Susy never fully defends her statements before Katy continues, “you told me dad never touched you”. Apparently this quote referring to a woman’s breasts was originally spoken by, father, Brian years ago when Susy and Katy were young impressionable children, and the fact that both woman now remember the minor but strong words is alarming. Suddenly a second subplot interjects itself into the already immoral story line. At this point it is revealed that in the past, father, Brian has molested both of his daughters at the age of thirteen. And in good fashion the flashbacks commence with a scene in the Connor’s childhood backyard when an innocent game of basketball morphs into a father daughter groping session. It occurred “so many times I lost count” Susy emphasizes.
In a lighter scene Katy has a private meeting with Marion whom Katy is convinced is also a lesbian merely based on the interpretations of Susy. In this brief but important meeting Katy admits that “Susy is set on money and has formulated her plan accordingly”. There is obvious sexual tension between the two women, until the mediator cuts their session short in order to meet her husband. At this point in the film all parties are in a state of stress concerning their legal and economic fate. In another scene with all three Connor children it is discussed that Brian needs triple bypass surgery amounting to $30,000.00, there is argument over who should cover the bill Paul or Susy. In yet another plot twist Gary accuses Vince of believing Susy over his coworker and mate. Vince sights that he has good reason to believe her and yet again a flashback ensues, this time of Vince’s perception of the infamous harassment occurrence. Soon after it is revealed that all along Gary had plans to take over the insurance firm and he had lied about meeting with merchant bankers leading to betrayal and confrontation between himself and Vince, which in Australia is extremely detrimental to ones character and in Gary’s case his karma.
As all of the characters seem to unravel at the seems Katy and Susy confront their father on charges of molestation thus initiating a flashback. Brian at first attempts to defend himself passing it off as harmless affection for his daughters but after being figuratively cornered by both daughters he crumbles and apologizes for the years of abuse and denial thus bringing the family much closer. As the film shifts to the court room Vince shows up fashionably late and sits on Susy’s side in an effort to punish Gary for his disloyalty. As Susy finally takes the stand in a long awaited true confession she reveals that the real story is that she did lead Gary on and they did have sex for a short period before explicit phone calls started in the workplace. She goes on to describe that when she told him it was over he became more aggressive, she also tells the courtroom that he bragged about cheating on his wife four times, all the while Gary’s wife is seated helplessly in the court room. Throughout her testimony a flashback is played out in which Gary demands oral sex in the dismal office and he victimizes Susy to the extent of rape. As Susy’s testimony progresses Gary becomes physically flustered and yells outright in the courtroom dismissing her claims as lies, at which point his lawyer requests adjournment.
In conclusion Susy wins the highly controversial $40,000.00 settlement devoting the majority of it to her father’s hospital bills. Katy asks Susy if all of the accusations were indeed fact, but this information is never revealed to the audience leaving the viewer frustrated and wanting more closure. Although there is a sense of conclusion internally between the Connor family, it is frustrating having seen so many flashbacks of that one night in the office, and not being fully aware of what actually happened between Susy and Gary. It is ironic though how the story ends with Susy giving the money to the one man she was attempting to seek revenge on throughout the entire film. That man being her dad Brian, after years of abuse it is clear that Susy formed a complex directed toward men in general and this came to a head when she saw an opportunity to get paid for years of pain. The fact that the money, which was supposed to serve as therapy to Susy, is ultimately given to her father’s cause demonstrates an interesting and twisted circle of evolution. One in which no one individual gains from the pain they cause others, but instead they spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to make themselves feel better while hurting others and no one ever accomplishes any true redemption.
As far as critical uptake is concerned Brilliant Lies was definitely a guilty pleasure for television audiences in 2001 when it landed the number four spot for the most watched Australian film on television according to OzTam and the Australian Film Commission. Critic David Macdonald disliked the alternative story line concerning molestation stating “it contains a sub-plot which was probably unnecessary” but he does consider the film to achieve a unique sense of truth and cynicism. In July of 1997 when Brilliant Lies opened in the states Stephen Holden for the New York Times explained that the film “has many awkward transitions and a weak feel-good ending that goes against the grain of everything that came before”.
Richard Franklin has also directed quite a slew of Australian films including, Hotel Sorrento, F/X 2, Link, Cloak and Dagger, Psycho II, Visitors, Roadgames and Patrick. He has been honored by the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and the Catalonian International Film Festival for best direction with 1978’s Patrick. He also won best adapted screen play for 1995’s Hotel Sorrento from AFI. For Visitors Richard Franklin was invited to the Australian International Movie Convention held on the Gold Coast in 2003 in an effort to promote Australian Cinema. Anthony LaPaglia has stared in over thirty films since Brilliant Lies, some of the more noteworthy include, Phoenix, Summer of Sam, Black and Blue, Company Man, Looking for Alibrandi, Autumn in New York, Lantana, I’m With Lucy, The Guys, Happy Hour, and Winter Solstice, which he also executive produced. He has also made guest appearance in various television series and even won a Golden Globe award in 2004 for his dramatic performance in “Without a Trace”, he also received an Emmy for his comedic character on “Frasier” in 2002. He has been nominated multiple times at film festivals and by the Screen Actors Guild and AFI, most recently winning for his lead role in Lantana.
Brilliant Lies is considered a drama as far as genres are concerned through the touching on subjects such as incest, sexual harassment, rape, and the role of the legal system. More specifically Brilliant Lies is a social problems film with its dramatic base occurring in workplace (Neale, 113). Brilliant Lies does reflect a certain attribute of Australian Cinema in general, that being that it is often neglected in the international scene. As an American and having never heard of the film I could not help but think while viewing that it reminded me of the made for television movies back home in the states, most specifically those aired on Lifetime, Television for women. Throughout watching Brilliant Lies I was constantly reminded of the obscure films back home that attempt to push the envelope with woman’s issues but always manage to fall short in a men’s industry and ultimately get swept under the carpet, no matter who the cast includes. I think that Brilliant Lies proves just how much more unique and inventive Australian Cinema must be to succeed under the monopolization of Hollywood in postmodern times.
Alspector, Lisa. “Brilliant Lies.” The Chicago Reader, July 1997.
Brilliant Lies. Australian Film Commission. 21 April 2005,
Brilliant Lies. Box Office Magazine. 23 April 2005,
Brilliant Lies. Davis Nusair’s Reel Film Reviews. 22 April 2005,
Brilliant Lies. Dir. Richard Franklin. Perf. Anthony LaPaglia, Gia Cerides, Ray Barret,
and Zoe Carides, Bayside Pictures, 1996.
Brilliant Lies. IFILM. 21 April 2005, http://www.ifilm.com/.
Brilliant Lies. International Movie Database. 21 April 2005, http://www.imdb.com/.
Brilliant Lies. Movie Tome. 21 April 2005, http://www.movietome.com/.
Brilliant Lies. Rotten Tomatoes. 21 April 2005, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/.
Brilliant Lies. Urban Cinefile. 22 April 2005,
Boman, Christine. “’Let’s get her’: masculinities and sexual violence in contemporary
Australian drama and its film adaptations.’” Journal of Australian Studies (Jan 2003): 127-139.
Heisler, Bob. “Brilliant Lies.” The Los Angeles Times, 25 July 1997.
Holden, Stephen. “A Sexual Confrontation of He Lies, She Lies.” The New York
Times. 11 July 1997.
Krausz, Peter. “Working it out: work and working life in the cinema.” Australian Screen
Education I30 (Summer 2003): 178-182.
Steve Neale 2000, Genre and Hollywood, Routledge, London & New York.
Stratton, David. “Brilliant Lies.” Variety i2 (May 13-19, 1996): 68.
David Williamson. Essay Dealing With Themes/Ideas In Williamson's "The Club" And "The Removalists"
In his play The Club, David Williamson presents numerous Australian attitudes of the 1970s. However, many of these attitudes are still relevant and fairly accurate representations of Australian attitudes in the 1990s, although some of course have changed somewhat over the time since the play was written nearly twenty years ago.
Tradition plays a very important part in The Club. Each of the characters of course has his own ideas and attitudes towards tradition, but there are some which are more or less universal throughout the play. In The Club, tradition is mainly presented as the opposite to progress and success; that is, to achieve success in today's world, tradition must be abandoned. For example, Laurie (the coach) blames an old Club tradition for his failure to win a premiership, 'You and your cronies wouldn't let me buy players.' Jock (the vice-president) replies, 'We were upholding an old tradition. It was wrong, but we believed in it.' Then in the next line, Laurie accuses Jock of supporting the rest of the committee in upholding the tradition not because he believed in it himself, but because he didn't want Laurie to succeed, 'They might have believed in it but the reason why you wouldn't let the Club buy players was to stop me winning a flag.'
However, Jock does support and use tradition when it is in agreement with his goals. For example when trying to avert a players' strike, Jock claims that former Club heroes would be disgusted by the idea, 'I want to turn all those photographs around so they don't have to look down on this shameful scene.' However, it is later revealed that Jock supports the buying of players and a coach who has not played for the Club, both of which are against traditions, to ensure that the Club wins a premiership next season. This hypocritical attitude towards tradition is probably a fairly typical Australian attitude; traditions are upheld and honoured, but only when they do not stand in the way of progress and success. This attitude presented by Williamson is probably even more widespread now in the 1990s, as success is seen as being even more important today.
Attitudes towards commercialism are also explored in The Club. In the play, the Club itself is just beginning the road to commercialisation with the purchase of Geoff Hayward (the star recruit) for $90,000. However, Gerry (the administrator) and Jock's plans for next year not only include the dropping of some Club traditions, but also extensive commercialisation as wealthy entrepreneurs are recruited for sponsorship money which will be used to buy more players. The attitude of acceptance of the commercialisation of sport that is evident in The Club is more relevant in the...
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