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:: The Night We Called It A Day

Australia was going into a new phase in the early 1970s with a sense of being true to itself and a wider view of the world. We were becoming more cultural and opening our doors to new people and new ideas. In one of Australia’s historical entertainment moments, legendary singer Frank Sinatra (Dennis Hopper) came here for a concert tour in 1974. He witnessed something he’d never imagined after copping heaps of questions and innuendo upon his arrival, particularly about his girlfriend Barbara Marx (Melanie Griffith).

Though Sinatra is the greatest figure in the history of entertainment, this story is not strictly about him. Director Paul Goldman (Australian Rules) provides a fictional account of a young rock promoter Rod Blue (Joel Edgerton) who, after previous rock promotions were under whelming, yearns to bring Sinatra to Australia. With some larrikin confidence, he duly delivers.

There was a scuffle at the airport and it led to Sinatra making a comment at his concert alluding to the fact that female journalists were hookers. His remarks caused dissatisfaction amongst the union and the union movement went on a “no-service to Sinatra” policy. Sinatra was virtually imprisoned in his hotel room. He is a man who never apologised and trade union leader Bob Hawke (David Field) was brought in to try and settle the dispute. The next concert was cancelled and a stalemate ensued. Could a solution be found?

This is a unique comedy to which Australian audiences should welcome. It tells of a famous incident in showbiz history and a terrific cast has been assembled. A very good script was prepared before everybody got on board the project. A young and fashionable country was up against the “Chairman of the Board”.

Securing Dennis Hopper to play the role of Frank Sinatra was a great coup. He is right for it. Other international actors Melanie Griffith and David Hemmings play fine supporting roles. Joel Edgerton, as the brash promoter, makes a big move forward in his acting career. He will get the sympathies of those viewing the film. His is a funny and calculated performance. Portia de Rossi does a good job as the feisty gossip columnist Hilary Hunter. One of the funniest roles is by David Field, as Bob Hawke. He has the Hawke characteristics to a tee and is terrific.

Older Australians should enjoy this film. The great Sinatra music is relived through the vocals by Tom Burlinson. Younger audiences will be fascinated by the Sinatra persona and the move by director Paul Goldman to have Edgerton as a young leading cast member. Overall, it’s entertaining and interesting right to the end. One criticism is that, while the real-life drama was happening in Melbourne, this film bases the incidents in Sydney.

However, I enjoyed the film for the light-hearted way we are shown a momentous event in Australian showbiz history. Sinatra fans shouldn’t be too worried at his portrayal. The writers have a play with his legend and nicely recreate our country’s character in the 1970s.