The Castle

May 12, 1999 at 12:00 am

In pop psychology – that medium of greeting card wisdom – a favorite saying is that when you’re given lemons, make lemonade. This is a credo that Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) lives by. Except for one thing: By Darryl’s unwaveringly cheerful reckoning, lemons aren’t so bad to begin with.

The Kerrigan clan – consisting of Darryl, the equally contented family matriarch Sal (Anne Tenney), bargain-hunting son Steve (Anthony Simcoe), beautician-newlywed Tracey (Sophie Lee) and youngest son Dale (Stephen Curry), the film’s narrator – blissfully occupies a ramshackle dwelling in suburban Australia whose merits most other people would have a difficult time discerning. The house, made even more distinctive by Darryl’s enthusiastic – albeit half-baked – additions, was built on a toxic landfill and in the shadow of enormous power lines. It also happens to have the Melbourne airport just beyond the backyard fence.

Even the fact that eldest son Wayne (Wayne Hope) is doing a jail stint for a botched robbery can’t dim Darryl’s exuberant belief that he is living the good life. That is until a runway expansion means eviction from his beloved property.

Darryl proceeds to hire the inept lawyer Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora) to take this David and Goliath case to court, always presuming that he will win in the end. A man’s home is his castle, so why shouldn’t this little guy triumph over the all-powerful Australian government? That’s the assertion of director Rob Sitch, who co-wrote the screenplay with Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Jane Kennedy.

The Castle adopts Darryl’s worldview wholeheartedly and, without even the faintest whiff of irony, presents a John Waters-like cast of characters as the epitome of normalcy. While much of the humor is low-key and gentle, enjoying The Castle depends a great deal on whether or not you’re willing to go along with the central joke: that someone could, so successfully, be blind to conventional standards of success. This makes The Castle the ideal film for that group of people who, when faced with a partly filled glass, regard it not as half-empty, but half-full.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].