Courtesy Photo
Directed by Peter Duncan

Starring Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Richard Roxburgh & F. Murray Abraham

"Children of the

Opened: May 9, 1997 | Rated: R

Part mock documentary, part dysfunctional family comedy and part political satire, "Children of the Revolution" is a steady two hours of dry laughs.

Opening with commentaries from fictitious academics about a "near revolution" in early 1990s Australia, the movie follows the life of Joe Welch (Richard Roxburgh), a powerful right-wing police union boss who, ironically, is the illegitimate son of Joseph Stalin.

Let me explain: The first part of the story takes place in the 1950s when Joe's mom, Joan (Judy Davis), a pent-up and somewhat naive Australian communist, is invited to visit the Russian dictator after sending him a picture with a passionate letter.

Stalin (played tongue firmly in cheek by F. Murray Abraham) sloppily seduces her -- her complacency is due entirely to politics -- impregnates her, and drops dead in the act. All this is played like a deadpan Monty Python skit, with Stalin's lieutenants hardly able to control their glee at the news of his passing.

Joan returns to Australia and agrees to marry Welch (Geoffrey Rush from "Shine"), a man whom she never loved but who pined for her so much that he followed her into "The Party" like a puppy dog. Her conditions: that he pretend to be the boys father and not ask any questions.

Raised on a diet of commune spirit, protests and nights in jail, the only part young Joe takes to is the arrests. After meeting a pretty police officer, he gets arrested as often as he can -- which eventually, somehow, leads to his heading the policeman's union, much to his mother's dismay.

The witty script, in the vein of "Dr. Strangelove" with snickers instead of guffaws, is complimented by outstanding performances from all the leads.

Davis's Joan becomes bitter in the fourth quarter of the Cold War, her mouth shriveling as she goes off on political diatribes to Welch, the only person who will still listen to her. Rush is wonderfully wimpy as the obedient husband. Sam Neill, who plays a womanizing double agent that pursues Joan romantically and professionally, has a delightful glimmer in his eye as the one person in the story who sees politics for what it is -- a game.

These people from Joe's life are interviewees in the documentary portions of the film, including his wife, the pretty cop, who becomes creeped out just looking at him after she learns his geneology. But Joan and Joe are not interviewed, giving the audience their fate to ponder as the story unfolds.

In the last act, "Revolution" is thick with irony as Joe's life begins to mirror his real father's. At once a commentary on international politics and a stinging mockery of politicians, "Revolution" might have had more meaning a six or seven years ago, but it is just as funny today.

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