In watching two young lovers fight an uphill battle against a boozy entertainer on the downhill side of her career, Introducing the Dwights turns into one of the better date movies from Down Under.
Introducing the Dwights, also known as Clubland overseas, is the story of Jean (Brenda Blethyn) a comedienne at the end of her career. She desperately tries to get that one big break--and to keep her 21-year-old son, Tim (Khan Chittenden), from becoming an adult. While Jean works her day job as a cook, she relies on Tim to drive her to her standup gigs at small cabarets at night, as well as take care of his disabled brother, Mark (Richard Wilson). But then Tim meets and falls for Jill (Emma Booth), much to his mother's dismay. The budding romance is plagued not only by Jean but also by Tim's inexperience and Jill's insecurity. Jean also uses Mark to try to drive a wedge between the young lovers. But still, the romance is blossoms, while Jean's quest for an audition at the best and biggest club in the area is the goal that keeps her going.
Brenda Blethyn (Pride & Prejudice, Secrets & Lies) plays the alcoholic Jean as a domineering entertainer. The British veteran is marvelous portraying Jean's narcissism as she cajoles, seduces, and berates everyone around her, clinging to a fleeting dream of stardom while holding onto her sons for some stability. Blethyn's performance is astounding for both the venom and tenderness she brings to the character. As well, newcomer Khan Chittenden is terrific as the shy and inexperienced Tim, and he pairs up fabulously with another newcomer, Emma Booth as Jill. Richard Wilson also does an amazing job as the mentally disabled Mark, imbuing a keen sense of humor in his observations, obviously inherited from his mother, Jean.
Cherie Nowlan is more known for her television directing in Australia but has definitely readied herself to embark on this new career path. She handles Keith Thompson's script with aplomb, incorporating an almost documentary style of filmmaking when dealing with the relationships, which makes for a visceral and engaging entry into the lives of these characters. The direction also complements what is a very realistic romance between two young people. When Tim is shy and awkward with Jill, the up-close-and-personal style makes it sweetly uncomfortable. But then Nowlan switches gears and uses more traditional camera-work and lighting when Jean is onstage, making it more clinical and otherworldly and setting the two worlds apart. Introducing the Dwights is a delightful gem.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.