Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Louise Alston's Jucy opens and closes with a scene of speed-dating in a bar, as its two main characters, Jackie (Cindy Nelson) and Lucy (Francesca Gasteen), introduce themselves in medium close-up to their off-camera suitors, and, of course, to us as well.

While both the rapidity and intimacy of these montages establishes the pace and tone of what will follow, what is even more revealing is the way that the two 27-year-old Brisbanites seem, through clever intercutting of their respective pitches, to finish one another's sentences – and the fact that, though ostensibly seeking to meet a new significant other, they inevitably end up just talking about their own long-established friendship together.

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Jackie and Lucy, you see, are joined at the hip – "friends with emotional benefits'. It is a co-dependency which gives both of them emotional strength and support, but also holds them back to a degree – or as one character puts it near the beginning of the film: "I am an adult, which is something you two will never be while you're in this weird pseudo-relationship with one another." So the 'Jucy' duo come up with a two-month plan to transform their lives: Jackie will get herself a "hot fuck-off boyfriend", and sets her sights on local actor Alex (Ryan Johnson), even if he is ridiculously self-absorbed; while Lucy will acquire a "hot fuck-off job", even if her ambition to become an actress is at odds with the expectations of her professionalised family. Alex's latest am-dram production of Jane Eyre seems to provide the perfect staging ground for both womens' transformations – but can Jackie and Lucy's friendship survive the fallout of change?

"Who would you rather sleep with: Mr Darcy or Hamlet?" These are the first words that we hear Lucy address to Jackie, and they promise an impish literary intelligence that Jucy will certainly go on to deliver. If, in the co-operative play for which the girls audition, it at first seems over-obvious and over-schematic that Jackie, with her mental health problems, should be cast as mad Mrs Rochester while Lucy, with her body-image issues, should get the part of plain Jane Eyre, then this dynamic will soon be confounded by a sophisticated role reversal or two.

Meanwhile, Jucy also manifests the sort of eclectic cine-literacy that might be expected of a film whose two main characters work together in an alternative video store. The most obvious influences here are Muriel's Wedding (1994) and Love And Other Catastrophes (1996), both of which similarly used a 'womance' to explore female rites of passage – but Jucy also boasts an anything-goes energy, as well as a satirical approach to its own forms and the posturings of its characters, that suggests the distaff side of Tarantino or Godard – and just wait till you hear Jackie's toy elephant talking with the (actual) voice of Orson Welles.

Low-budget and a little too neatly wrapped up in the end, Jucy may at times take on the ramshackle amateurishness of the play in which Jackie and Lucy appear – but it more than makes up for this with an enthusiasm and vibrancy that ensures its judiciously brief duration breezes by – helped along by two leads who, as real-life best friends, infuse their characters' relationship with an infectious chemistry. As with their debut feature All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, director Alston and writer Stephen bring a healthy dose of the local and the contemporary to their otherwise second-hand tropes, and the results certainly pass the time amiably.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2011
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Jucy = Jackie + Lucy, best friends who hatch a plan to snag the man and grab a cool new job.
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Director: Louise Alston

Writer: Stephen Vagg, based on a story by Louise Alston

Starring: Cindy Nelson, Francesca Gasteen, Ryan Johnson, Damien Freeleagus, Nelle Lee, Andrew Ryan, Charlotte Gregg, Sally McKenzie, Christopher Sommers

Year: 2010

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: Australia


Australia 2011

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