Movie Review - Children of the Revolution
Absurdity fuels 'Children of the Revolution'
Political satire has wicked bite

Children of the Revolution BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Those wacky Australians, how do they manage to make so many groovy movies?

From Mad Max to Gallipoli to Shine, the continent down under keeps coming up with the most unexpected films full of knockout performances.

They've done it again, with Children of the Revolution, the debut feature from writer-director Peter Duncan.

Mr. Duncan takes heady risks with his mix of political satire, absurd comedy and darkly emotional family drama.

Children of the Revolution
***1/2
(R, profanity, nudity, sexuality)
Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Richard Roxburgh, F. Murray Abraham.
Directed by Peter Duncan.
105 minutes.
The Mariemont.
Sometimes his ambitions get away from him, but on the whole he cooks up a tasty blend with a wicked bite.

Where the script runs into weakness, the cast fills the gaps.

Judy Davis all but burns the screen as Joan Frazier, a ferocious 1950s Bolshevik so devoted to revolutionary dreams that she writes long, adoring letters to Josef Stalin (F. Murray Abraham).

The letters earn her a trip to the Kremlin, where the insane dictator wines and dines her, and performs a Cole Porter serenade with backup from his ''three stooges,'' Khrushchev, Beria and Molenkov.

It's no mean feat to turn an infamous butcher into a comic figure, but in these scenes Mr. Abraham pulls it off with giddy panache.

The evening leads to the bedroom, where Joan awakes to find Stalin dead. Hysterical, she turns to a shadowy double agent called Nine (the always watchable Sam Neill) for comfort.

She goes home pregnant and marries a sweet-natured admirer called Welch (Geoffrey Rush), who raises the baby -- named Joe -- as his own.

Joan's extreme politics never waver throughout the boy's life, even as he develops an unusual fascination with prisons and police.

After a childhood on the barricades with his mother, the grown-up Joe (Richard Roxburgh) falls in love with a female officer (Rachel Griffiths), who repeatedly slaps the cuffs on him.

From that point on, the satire turns increasingly bitter, as the sins of history take their toll on the innocent, the wicked and the cruelly deluded.

Mr. Duncan's acerbic insights are impressively even-handed; no slice of the political spectrum is spared.

In painting a sweeping social canvas, the story does sacrifice some of its humanity. But fine, honest performances from its excellent stars make its faults easy to forgive.

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