John Curran’s Directorial Debut, Praise

John Curran’s Directorial Debut, Praise

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Crabtree Films 

Release date: May 9th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 98 minutes

Director: John Curran

Country of origin: Australia
Year of production: 1998

Cast: Peter Fenton, Sacha Horler

Praise is the story of Gordon (Peter Fenton), an unemployed chain-smoking asthmatic and his relationship with eczema sufferer Cynthia (Sacha Horler). Based on the novel by Andrew McGahan, Praise follows the depressed and sexually charged antics of Gordon and Cynthia as they argue, have sex, don’t have sex and occasionally play scrabble. It was highly acclaimed by the Australian Film Institute for Best Actress and Best Screenplay, and for all the right reasons.

Praise is strangely devoid of plot. At the start of the film Gordon quits his job, after that he gets a phone call from a former colleague, Cynthia, to go hang out. The two begin their relationship early on in the film, and when Cynthia moves in with Gordon problems start to surface. Cynthia’s sex addiction becomes too much for Gordon and as he struggles to cope with her ferocious appetite, things get worse and worse for them. It is fair to say that Praise is not a typical romantic comedy.


Fenton does a very good job with the paranoid, chain-smoking Gordon. There is a slightly pathetic and self-deprecating air about him that makes him both a likeable character and the basis for a lot of the humour of the film. A particular standout moment is Gordon’s visit to the doctor and the doctor is more concerned with his potential alcohol addiction than his problems in bed. Even his attempts to get diagnosed and saved and undercut by how tragic a character he is.

Horler compliments Fenton’s self deprecating Gordon by giving him every reason to be paranoid. Sexual politics have never been any less subtle. Cynthia dominates Gordon immediately, and all of his muttered apologies get sadder as the film goes on. Horler performs crazy very well as she screams, kicks, cries, and hits her way through the latter half of the film.

The language of Praise prevents it from ever becoming too romantic. The first 5 minutes of the film has more swear words than most hour and a half feature lengths. The vast amount of swearing is incredibly noticeable from the start, but it gradually becomes normal as time goes on, and after a while you don’t even notice how often the characters swear.

The use of sex is the same as the language in Praise. It happens so often, and so casually, you begin to think of nothing of it when Gordon and Cynthia are having sex on the floor and discussing the intimacies of their personal life quite explicitly. It is difficult to desensitize sex and swearing, but Praise achieves it and uses both as vehicles for humour and drama.


Gordon’s housemates, a gang of crazy old men, are worth mentioning. It is bizarre, but the same with the swearing and the sex, it is introduced so early on you learn to accept it.

Where Praise succeeds is that it doesn’t try to do too much at once. It moves well through a series of awkward moments in Gordon and Cynthia’s car-crash of a relationship and the solid performances by the lead roles and supporting actors, particularly Joel Edgerton playing Gordon’s best friend Leo, keep the film going. The cinematography of Praise suits the film as well, it is really simple and dark and fits with the overall style.

The only drawback to Praise is that there is a slight lull in the middle of the film where it seems to lose all momentum. For a film just over an hour and a half that shouldn’t really be the case. It stands out unfortunately, because of the pace that it maintains in the first and last parts of the film.

Whether it set out to be as funny as it comes across is hard to tell, but either way Praise is an entertaining film with an ending that is just as strange as the rest of the film. The bizarre elements to Praise make it all the more enjoyable to watch, and you find yourself having to keep accepting different things – sex, swearing, scrabble, old men – to keep up with the film.

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