Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
Mia Wasikowska – Judy
Damon Herriman – Punch
Benedict Hardie – Derrick
Virginia Gay – Ma
Tom Budge – Mr. Frankly
Gillian Jones – Dr. Goodtime
Kiruna Stamell – Mavis
This film is completely fucking bonkers from start to finish. But at the same time it celebrates the history of Punch and Judy superbly.
Judy & Punch plays out like a tribute to the world-famous puppet show and its characters. Having both titular characters morphed into human form is a touch of genius; it means you get to follow their story expressed with human emotions instead of little puppet heads bobbing about in a box. Keep that show you’re familiar with in mind as you watch this film though, it will probably make a reference point (“oh yeah – that’s the crocodile from the play”, etc. type reactions).
I for one felt an echo from my childhood as the dog with sausages and The Constable made their mark on screen. Many of the characters from the original play are here, and together they create a sinister story which, in parts, is shocking..
This film thrives on its dark humour, presenting the viewer with characters who deliver some utterly bizarre dialogue – during seemingly normal situations. One example is a local who announces, “happy Stoning Day!” to people in the locality prior to a stoning of women event taking place in nearby woods. And it’s not just the edgy lines that are spoken, some of the scenarios people get caught up in are crazy.
Certain residents of Seaside seem to thrive off of witch hunts and the subsequent trials, whoring themselves and rowdy drinking which leads to smashing things – and each other – up. The whole thing is shameless carnage, and will probably have viewers thanking god they weren’t born in the 16th or 17th Centuries.
A scene involving Punch and Baby is so shocking that the dark humour turns pitch-black; you know those moments where you laugh out loud – but quickly cover your mouth when you realise you shouldn’t be laughing – that’s what you get here. It’s an unforgiving attack on your morals.
And speaking of morals, another area where Judy & Punch excels is its fearlessness when exploring age-old issues such as sexism and gender politics. In a style that matches its period costume, its backwards-thinking characters display some absurd behaviour that would make modern day people’s heads spin. Professor Punch is the main culprit; a sweet smile hiding his underlying violent streak. Mirroring the famous puppet show, he lashes out at Judy as though man beating wife is an everyday thing.
Herriman is an absolute winner as Punch. His portrayal of the alcoholic showman is faultless, and at times bloody funny. His versatility means the mix of dark comedy and tragedy is perfect, however wrong it seems at times. His slightly hooked nose and chin are remarkably similar to that of the classic puppet, his features brought out nicely with rosy cheek blush.
Wasikowska was Herriman’s ideal casting match; she brings dramatics to the film on a deeper emotional level than anyone else. Judy adds a touch of normality amongst the crazy shit going on all around her, but becomes fiercely heroic once she hatches a plan of vengeance against Punch..
So, the part I (sometimes) hate doing: the bad bits.
I have to say, that although this film boasts some fantastic talent and a sinister screenplay, parts of it could use some work. It loses its way at times (especially towards the end when Judy makes a few new friends). It feels badly dragged out as though the producers were still being handed freshly-written script as they went along. Not great.
As well as this, the main plot seems too thin. And the focus on a warring couple quickly shifting to a new female introduction is odd.
Judy & Punch captures the essence of its time period perfectly. With its setting comprised of unique buildings and some gorgeous costume on show, it’s a perfect step back in time and every historian’s dream production surrounded by crazed cackling and beer tankards.
Don’t expect it to blow you away but in terms of bringing the classic puppet show to life with live-action, this was definitely the way to do it.