Children of the Revolution

on May 01, 1997 by Bridget Byrne
   Judy Davis--young and old, funny and sad, witty and humorless--is at her highly entertaining best as the lifelong relentless revolutionary at the heart of "Children of the Revolution." This Australian film, whose excellent cast also includes a very sparky Sam Neill and a charmingly soft Geoffrey Rush ("Shine"), is a fanciful black comedy about Joseph Stalin's legacy, both figuratively and literally.
   Davis as Joan Fraser, ardent communist and, by an oddball set of circumstances, bearer of "Uncle Joe's" child, hopes and works and strives--in the face of considerable opposition from the other men who care about her--to make the son the equal of the sire. Blind as she was to Stalin's faults, it's no surprise that the boy doesn't turn out the way she wants. But the film contains lots of surprises, both humorous and touching, as it speaks of the worth of passionate belief and the dangers of blinkered devotion. Amid the stylized crazy humor and complex jokes of real farce the actors create honest feelings, particularly Davis, her frumped-up hairstyle itself speaking volumes for the woman's state of mind, tugging audience's along through the story's quirks and foibles as Fraser rants and raves and rallies along her chosen path.
   F. Murray Abraham makes all he can of the essentially cameo role of Stalin, but Richard Roxburgh is rather erratic in tone as the much more complex second-generation Joe. Peter Duncan's writing and directing takes equal delight with both the pitfalls and pratfalls and, though the film looses momentum eventually, for much of its journey it steps out, lively and surefooted, prancing to a choice soundtrack and its own personal perversity.    Starring Judy Davis, Sam Neill, F. Murray Abraham, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush and Rachel Griffiths. Directed and written by Peter Duncan. Produced by Tristram Miall. A Miramax release. Comedy/drama. Rated R for some strong sexuality and language. Running time: 100 min
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