Social message from knight in shiny overalls


KennyAustralian film has had its share of working class icons. One of our most famous exports, Crocodile Dundee, although an outback legend, was essentially a working class bloke. And Darryl Kerrigan, Michael Caton's character in The Castle, is another whose good Aussie blokeisms like 'How's the serenity?' entered the vernacular.

'Kenny Smyth', from the recently released feature film Kenny, is the latest blue collar, purple heart hero to hit Australia's big screen. Shane Jacobson plays Kenny, a 38-year-old plumber who installs portaloos and throws a mean left hook (but only in self-defence). A career comic, Shane is, with his brother Clayton, one half of the team that produced, shot and directed Kenny.

While The Castle had Australians talking about moving the Commodore to get to the Kingswood, Kenny Smyth's sayings might take a bit longer to enter common parlance. Take for example his thoughts on divorce proceedings:

'I reckon we need to cut out the middle-man. Just find someone you hate and give her a house.'

Whether it's sticking his head into a poo tank and remarking that it's a smell set to outlast religion, or fishing an unappreciative woman's engagement ring from the top of a dung heap, Kenny is the archetypal down-to-earth tradesman, always there with a helping hand outstretched and some hard-won advice.

While sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Kenny also has a strong social critique. The movie is dedicated to those who do menial jobs and are often overlooked—and even sometimes scorned by their fellow Australians—as a consequence. During the speeches at the conclusion of the film's pre-release cast and crew screening, the Jacobson brothers called for a group of people in the third row to stand up and take a bow. Reluctantly, they responded and Shane announced that these guys, the Splashdown staff, were the real heroes and that they would be back at it for real tomorrow morning.

KennyIt would be interesting to get a sense of how Shane became Kenny—to find out what he makes of Kenny for representing underpaid and under-appreciated Australian workers. But in a clever marketing ploy in the lead up to the film's general release—a ploy that publicist Deb Fryers said had been particularly effective in country Australia—the media can't get Shane's opinions. We can only get Kenny's. And, to use the character's vernacular, the boy's not short of a word.

He agrees when I put it to him that some politicians use the word 'battler' these days and shortchange the real ones.

'I'm not a very politically minded person, the only time I've been called a 'PM' is when I was called a "poo meister",' he says through his characteristic speech impediment. 'But I think you're right. Some people call small business people 'battlers', but what I call battlers are the women out there who are raising four kids on their own. If you go back generations, you had mothers who had their husbands and two of their sons at war while still raising two young kids. They were the battlers in my book.'

KennyCurrent day Aussie farmers are also big stories in Kenny's book. They love Kenny in the bush, flocking to preview screenings. In fact, the film had its world premiere in a country town. Kenny was raised on a farm (he thought his Dad could lift tractors) and he brings his country wisdom and affability to the city. And though he was left with no choice one night but to pour a hoseful of poo into a rich bloke's sports car, Kenny sees himself as a man of peace. Just a bloke trying to get along with his mates. How it should be, he reckons, when it comes to workplace relations.

'It's about camaraderie. No secret,' Kenny says. 'The men at Gallipoli, they jumped out of a trench to their own deaths alongside guys... They didn't want to let their mates down. It's the same at work or in a family: You've got to be able to run out of the trenches and fight for them if you really believe in them. When the chips are down that's the day to tally up the votes.'

When the chips are down, when the poo is flung at the fan, Kenny—a knight in shiny overalls—will be there to clean it up.



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Existing comments

I saw this film on the weekend and thought it was great - Kenny is a good bloke who wants to do the right thing by everyone. My wife got a bit seasick from the jumpy camera work - but still enjoyed it.
Francis | 22 August 2006

Do any of the film reviewers here actually know anything about film? Strong on words little cinematic relevance. Enjoyable film, terribly made
simon davey | 23 August 2006


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