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Danny Deckchair (2004)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

"For anyone who ever dreamed of taking off. "

This film, an especially fun Australian movie, loosely based on actual happenings, recounts the story of a “regular guy” who pursued an original idea. Like Strictly Ballroom, another fine Australian film, this movie relates the story of someone who breaks out of a “rut” and, through his own efforts, frees himself from an unfulfilling and sometimes stifling existence. In many ways, this film tells a modern fairy tale.

As the credits roll the camera shows a contemporary cityscape, finally coming to rest on a construction project. The focus changes to the construction workers, specifically those working the cement. Danny Morgan (Rhys Ifans) works with cement and through some misadventure not shown, ends up falling into a pool of it. His coworkers fish him out and his friend Pete (John Batchelor) grills him about paying more attention on the job and thinking less about “his holiday.” Later, in a cement truck with Pete, Danny discusses his plans to fly with his girlfriend to a remote location and camp for his vacation. Pete thinks Danny's plan is strange since, “It's just that normally, when people fly they stay in hotels.”

The setting changes to the workplace of Danny's girlfriend Trudy Dunphy (Justine Clarke). Trudy deals in real estate. The busy Trudy receives a call from Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon), a local TV sports “talking head.” All attention in the brokerage focuses on her call. Trudy tells Sandy that she found his glasses in her car. They make a “date” for lunch. Trudy says she hopes to show him “some more properties.” After she hangs up, the staff of the office cheers and they congratulate her on her appointment with someone who is “famous.” Trudy seems delighted until she remembers that she and Danny have already planned to go camping that week.

When arriving at their co-owned home, Trudy tells Danny she can't go camping with him since she must cover at the office. She says the office manager must leave because of a death in his family. When talking with a friend Trudy gets the idea of having a “barbie” to console the understandably upset Danny. Although it might dull the edge of Danny's disappointment, the barbecue idea also generates a few chores for him. While out shopping Danny encounters an old friend, Phil Stubbs (Duncan Young). Phil owns Car City and wrangles with a novelty manufacturer who has mistakenly put the wrong name on balloons advertising Phil's business. Phil gives Danny one of the balloons.

When Danny gets bored stuck at home, he crawls into the attic investigating. Trudy arrives home and not finding Danny, she phones a friend. She confides to her friend, that things are “taking off” for her, but Danny will always be a “cement man” -- one of the “little people.” Danny overhears this and decides to make a special effort with Trudy. When he arrives with flowers for Trudy at the real estate office, he discovers that the manager who supposedly had to leave, didn't. In addition, he sees Trudy with Sandy Upman. While gathering supplies for the barbie, Danny again notices the novelty store where he had seen Phil earlier and gets an idea about balloons.

When all their friends arrive for the barbie, Danny outlines his idea of attaching helium filled balloons to a chair, and taking to the skies. His friends help him fill balloons and attach them to a deckchair. While he sits in the chair, held down by several friends, they watch a game on TV and fill more balloons tying them to the chair. When one team scores a goal, those holding down Danny's chair let go. Danny and his chair quickly rise. However, his unplanned takeoff thwarts his plan for descent – a pair of scissors – and he cannot come back.

He also has little choice about his primitive aircraft entering a storm system which sends him far from home. Eventually he lands unceremoniously in the backyard of Glenda Lake (Miranda Otto). That's enough of the movie to introduce all the major players and show their relationships to one another.

Although generally a very lighthearted film, Danny Deckchair has self-discovery as a major theme. Both Danny and Glenda live mostly outside the mainstream of modern life, where Trudy and Sandy spend their time. Neither Danny nor Glenda have found happiness at the beginning of the movie. Nor do Danny's prospects seem particularly good, given his relationship with Trudy. In places explicit references are made to the Wizard of Oz, but many more subtle references to that film classic occur. The story also has many Capraesque “homages.” In addition, like the central characters of Strictly Ballroom, Danny and Glenda challenge the conformity of the mainstream on their voyage of self-discovery. Though it has all these similarities, it also has its own unique charm. I enjoyed Danny Deckchair very much. I think you will too.   

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