Maybe watch it for some cool Geelong sightseeing?
Paper Champions is the latest feature film by Jo-Anne Brechin and presents a well-meaning love story about a man stuck in a dead-end job standing up for himself, becoming a better person and getting the girl at the end. However, the film falls flat in most aspects, with what is at times a painful watch, that only manages to break a smile in a few scenes.
The plot is mostly expanded from a 2017 short film titled ‘Rey’ which stars Luke Saliba as the titular character. The synopsis for ‘Rey’ pretty much sums up the entire plot of ‘Paper Champions’, a man working a dead end job has his life re-awoken after the death of a work colleague forces a series of chance encounters with the girl of his dreams. Saliba returns as Rey for his new film and his performance is awkward and stoic at best. Often his line delivery is incredibly flat, and he stutters through every line the character has, it’s not like Saliba doesn’t know the lines either, he did also take on the role of lead writer for the project. None of the other actors are particularly engaging either, save for John Tui, the actor who plays Rey’s best friend, Wade who offers some energy in his delivery.
Unfortunately, due to the way Rey is written in this movie, every relationship he has with the other characters is entirely unbelievable, especially the relationship with Holly, the love interest in the film. Now I understand that the film is a comedy, and generally, there is some suspension of disbelief needed to make a comedic plot work, but the chance encounters that occur in this film make the plot feel incredibly unbelievable, almost like we are watching Rey’s fever dream play out in real time.
Additionally, a lot of the humour of the film ends up relying on stale, out-of-touch jokes around race, sexuality, and weight. For instance, the scene where Rey is taught to dance flamenco, a character who only hasn’t spoken thus far says “Why did you think I could teach you? Is it because I am gay, or Spanish?”. Occasionally the humour in the film does crack a smile however, the scenes with Rey in the office are all mostly humorous, in which the joke comes from the awkward nature of office conversations, and Rey’s inability to say literally anything at all in reaction. There’s another scene where Rey and Holly are sharing a coffee and there’s a visual gag involving a wheelchair wedged under a For Laser (maybe I only found this funny because I drive a Ford Laser). Alas, even the office humour tends to fall back on Steph, the human resources manager being the brunt of the jokes. One of the first jokes in the film is Wade complaining about filling out a ‘Diversity and Inclusiveness Survey’.
One of the aspects where the film offers some enjoyment is in the cinematography. The shots in this film are varied, with conversations between characters often being shot in interesting ways, rather than the standard shot, reverse-shot. I particularly liked the opening scene, where a lot of flat, wide shots are used to show Rey being particularly small in his surroundings, often the way Rey is placed in a frame that suggests that life seems to go on without him. Another example being the work function also early in the film, in this scene Rey is in focus, but all the action in the scene in happening in front of him, obscuring him from the view of the camera.
Also interesting is where this film is shot. Most, if not all the principle photography for this film took place in Geelong. Of course, that’s the only reason it flew by my radar in the first place. To me, the best parts of this movie were trying to figure out where everything was filmed. For instance, the work dance was shot at the Waun Ponds hall, many scenes of Rey riding his bike were also (likely) filmed along Waun Ponds drive. All the scenes at Holly’s workplace, the doctor’s practice, were filmed at the doctor’s office on the corner of Roslyn Road and Belle Vue Avenue in Highton (you can see Nardi’s Highton in the background of a few shots). The rugby scene with Wade and his family was shot at South Barwon football oval in Highton and I’m sure there’s many more to be found.
View this post on Instagram
I don’t want to be too hard on ‘Paper Champions’ because it’s clear a lot of love went into this film, with Saliba and his partner Erin being the film’s producers, as well as the lead writer and having acting roles too. However flat acting, cliché comedy that at sometimes is in really poor taste, and a plot where events just seemingly happen for no reason at all, it’s hard to recommend Paper Champions but maybe just watch it if you want to see a locally made film. Ultimately the film can’t seem to shake its origins as a 15-minute short film and ends up feeling both too long and too short at the same time.
You can check out Paper Champions on Netflix.