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The Sum of Us (1994)

Out of all the Russell Crowe films, The Sum of Us probably ranks among the top two or three that I've never been interested in seeing, partially because of the subject matter (which simply doesn't appeal or interest me) and also because seeing the great Maximus snogging guys is not only extremely awkward to watch but simply something I don't want to see. 

The Sum of Us is the story of widowed Harry Mitchell (Jack Thompson) and his gay son Jeff.  Harry is openly accepting of his son's lifestyle, maybe at times a little too overly accepting as Harry continuously embarrasses his son around his dates with his blunt comments and jokes.  Jeff always had a bit of problem in the area of self confidence, and when he meets a guy he really likes things seem to move a little too fast for the other guy and ends up scaring him off.  This sends Jeff into a bit of a depression but he's still got his father to support him, pushing him forward to keep searching for love.  Meanwhile his father is finding some love of his own life as he's connected with a woman through a dating service and they appear to hit it off brilliantly, even eventually planning to get married.

The Sum of Us is the story of an usual bond between a father and his gay son.  While I don't support the gay lifestyle and can still recognize the deeper meaning of the film which is the close family bond between Harry and his son, which is portrayed the best in the film's final twenty minutes following Harry's change in condition.  This was the highlight of the film for me where the real emotion and essence of the story truly shines through.  The first hour and fifteen minutes I found to be a little more of a chore to sit through as it's not only made up of a lot of drawn out conversation scenes but an encounter between Jeff and Greg which gets too hot and heavy too fast.  First off I don't care to see it, second there's no building of a relationship it's simply two horny guys wanting to get it on.  Had this been the way my favorite romance film, The Notebook, started out I'd be saying the same thing, it's lust not love, there's nothing charming or entertaining about it.

Franky there's somethings in life I simply don't want to witness, and Australia's very own gladiator getting all flirty and sweaty with other guys is simply something I don't want to watch, or consider entertainment.  Plus I can't really say Jeff's "encounter" with Greg adds as much to the film as his relationship with his father.  Some believe that Russell plays a gay man very well, I don't know what think, mainly because Russell playing such a role is so completely off the norm that I don't know how to process it when I see it.  There are definitely some scenes in the film Russell does a good job, but they're scenes that had nothing at all to do with his "gayness", and in those scenes he simply appears to be a straight guy.  It's these times that you almost forget he's gay at all, and it's not until Greg comes along that he seems to really turn that aspect of the character on.  The best performance in the film though has to be from Jack Thompson, while Russell is good, Jack makes most of the first hour bearable to sit through.

Overall, The Sum of Us was not really my cup of tea.  The first hour simply didn't appeal to me mainly because the encounter with Greg was awkward and then overblown when it doesn't work out.  What is Jeff supposed to expect when the basis of their first meeting seems to be tearing each others clothes off!?! It's really the final twenty minutes where Jeff's relationship and love for his father is really explored.  That was my favorite part of the film, it was the most interesting, the most emotional and the best performed, where the first hour simply drags on a bit too much and relies too much on Russell's encounter with Greg to carry the story.  In the end, The Sum of Us is probably my least favorite Russell Crowe film, but I can appreciate certain aspects of the story and the characters, it's just not one I'm likely to revisit again.



  1. Hmm, Russell Crowe playing a gay male. Interesante. Not sure if I'd find this interesting. I find the more obscure dramas are often not well developed. So, yeah, probably not going to be on my too see list.

  2. I've often seen Jack Thompson in movies, but never knew his name, and now I do thanks to your post.
    Why is it strange watching Russell as a gay man? It's a well known psychological fact that the most "machoistic" men like him are usually hidden gays.

  3. @Univarn - I'd say that's sort of the case with this one.

    @Dezmond - it's strange because you've got an actor whose known for tough roles flirting and kissing another guy. It's not something you associate Russell Crowe with. Plus most gays you see in movies and TV are extremely flamboyant, where Russell's character is somewhere in the middle.

  4. Eh, I guess it's still better than seeing Will Ferrell touching and groping another guy on ice :PPPPP

  5. @Dezmond - actually not really. There's a couple scenes where Russell's character is kissing a guy and then one where they're in bed about to get it on, thankfully they are clothed. So Will Ferrell on ice is really no comparison, in terms of sexual tension.

  6. wow. i'm sensing a lot of homophobia here! i've been chewing on your review all afternoon, and this is one that i have to disagree with very strongly. giving this one a 5/10 is way, way off the mark; i think it ranks as one of russell's finest performances pre-hollywood. his appearance as jeff is phenomenal, simply because russell is such an alpha male; for him to present an entirely convincing portrayal of a very sensitive, mostly gay (but occasional bisexual) man is nothing short of astonishing. he doesn't make jeff into a flamboyant screaming queen; he's just a bloke who wants to find someone with whom he can share his life and his love.
    part of russell's desire to play jeff was to quell some of the neo-nazi backlash following his outing (pardon the pun) in 'romper stomper' - he wanted to move as far from that character as was possible, and jeff presented that opportunity. he also felt strongly that it was important to put the issue of gay rights 'on the breakfast table' for discussion in oz, where gay bashing and abuse was still commonplace at that time. i applaud his courage in taking on the role and playing it so well.
    if you can get past the idea of its being two men who are flirting, checking each other out, talking suggestively and having intimate contact with each other and see them as people - not necessarily sexless but perhaps genderless - i think you would be able to set aside your squeamishness and see it as a lovely, touching, heartfelt story of longing, loss, and eventually, hope.
    in other words, quit being so butch and enjoy the story.

  7. @becks - I'll admit I may have over overused the word "awkward" to make it appear that's the only reason I didn't particularly care for the film, but that's not it at all.

    I don't know if I can agree that his performance is very convincing. As I stated in my review there are a lot of scenes in the film where Russell seems to be simply an ordinary character, even when he's having discussions with his Dad about other men. It was the scenes with Greg where Russell's character seems to flip on the gay switch and it's at those times it's blatantly clear. Frankly if you removed the scenes with Greg, I don't think you could honestly argue he's that convincing, it's those scenes which make the rest of his performance appear spot on.

    I also don't feel the story is as well developed as you seem to. Keep in mind I loved the last 20-30 minutes after his Dad has a stroke, I think from there on out the story really grows and completes well. But the first hour is simply overwhelmed by Jeff's relationship very brief encounter with a guy he goes out with once and there both aggressively hitting on each other and ready to get it on. I don't find any of that remotely entertaining, lovely, touching or heartfelt. Even if it was a guy and a girl I'd feel the same way. It's not like this is The Notebook and it's two people who build a genuine love for one another, these two guys have a couple of drinks, instantly start talking dirty to each other and almost end up getting it on, how do you expect me to react?

    Obviously we aren't going to agree on this one, but I will agree a part of the film was "lovely, touching, heartfelt story of longing, loss, and eventually, hope", and that's the final 20 or so minutes. The first hour simply isn't as strong, and I never felt Jeff's relationship with Greg was anything but awkward, and if Greg was a girl it would still be awkward and meaningless because it's not a relationship it's simply a drunk connection.

  8. okay, i understand your arguments. i wonder, though, how many men (or women) you or i may have met several times in our lives and we have no idea of their sexuality until we see them with a partner? i think the very fact that jeff doesn't 'appear' gay when he's not in a gay bar makes his character seem more real to me. he's a plumber; he plays footy; he's assimilated into the straight, decidedly not gay-friendly society in which he lives. your average gay man doesn't run around wearing hot pink shorts and makeup; he's probably the guy in the suit standing next to you on the train talking about his stock options.
    you may have gathered i've seen this film numerous times (duh!); jeff tells harry that he and greg have 'said g'day down at the pub a few times' and had a few drinks, so they have met before. we're only privy to this first pre-arranged meeting. honestly, how many meetings of this type between straight couples end up with the two people in bed, especially if they've been flirting with each other for a few weeks and had a few drinks on the evening?
    as you said, we'll probably have to agree to disagree on this film, and that's okay. you're being honest, and i appreciate that. we won't like all of the same films.

  9. @becks - ah you beat my last comment. I revised my review a little to short of weed out the overuse of awkward and pinpoint more exactly what I meant. But it seems my reply to your first comment made it a little more understandable.

    Jeff and Greg may have had a couple beers but when Greg leaves that night Jeff asks him to stay so they can just talk and get to know each other. So obviously they weren't too familiar. Greg didn't even know Jeff played football or Jeff that Greg swam. If they actually had previous encounters what did they discuss? I think they simply acknowledged one another and maybe had a few brief discussions. Still what happens behind the scenes doesn't really help to excel or support what's happening on the screen. And my point being while straight couples might do the same thing, it really doesn't help to sell that there's some real relationship here, it still seems one sided.

  10. I think Answer wasn't using word awkward because he has something against homosexual love. I think he was using the word connected to Russell himself - it was awkward seeing someone who has mostly macho roles in a performance like this one.
    I myself love watching movie characters who are searching for love and I don't really care what kind of gender, shape, race is the object of their love when they really find it. I just love when love is in the air :)

  11. @Dezmond - I would say it was a combination of both. As I said in my review I don't agree with the gay life style, meaning I don't think it's right, but I wouldn't consider myself a homophobe because I'd still treat anyone who was of that persuasion with just as much respect a I would anyone else.

    But without getting into a debate about homo-sexuality, my feeling towards this film was more geared to the way the relationship between the two men is rushed, even if they had previous dates, everything thrown into one meeting so it really doesn't seem genuine. Plus Russell in such a role was a little hard to grasp.

  12. sorry about creating a tempest in a teapot by using the word 'homophobia', which was probably a bit strong, and i apologize. i feel your reviews have been remarkably fair and open-minded, even when i haven't necessarily agreed with you, and i'm looking forward to your remarks on the later, better half of russell's films. there are a few more turkeys in the line-up (i won't express my opinions on which ones those are; you'll figure it out!), but even if you don't like the films, you have to admire russell's integrity in never playing the same character twice.

  13. @becks - no need to apologize. And please continue to comment, if nothing else I find some of the background you refer to quite interesting, such as what you said about Russell taking this role due to some of the backlash he may of received from Romper Stomper and that this role showed how he could play a completely opposite character.

    You know I had a feeling that whatever negative things I said about this film would create more of a backlash than anything else, simply because of the subject matter. I just wish some people would read a little further into my reviews instead of stopping at one point (in this case were I thought a particular scene was awkward) and then chalking my rating up to being thick headed and not giving the film a chance. There's more to my review than that, and that wasn't even the main reason for my rating! But that's the world today, I don't particularly love a film that has a couple gay guys in it then somethings wrong with me. And I'm not pointing the finger at you, I'm just speaking generally, so please take no offense.

    So please don't refrain from commenting, I think if anything this would probably be the most controversial film of Russell's that could go this far in terms of possible arguments. I've seen most the other films coming up so we should be fine. Unless you really love The Insider, because first time I watched that I found it incredibly boring. ;)

    And I've always said the best thing about Russell is his ability to play completely different characters in every film. That's one of the main reasons I like him so much as an actor.

  14. If you've been following the comments on this post you may have noticed I have removed some. This was a "discussion" (more like a one sided argument) between myself and a person who felt my comments about certain scenes being "awkward" and that I didn't agree with the gay lifestyle to be incredibly hateful. Obviously the issue of homo-sexuality is a touchy issue and I can see where someone obviously very passionate about the issue would blow those comments out of proportion, but I think most of you can and have calmly and rationally read and understood what I was saying, and can see I'm not being hateful.

    When did simply not supporting something become hateful? I treat everyone when the same respect no matter what you believe, but I also have a right to say I don't agree with something. Well to this person that's basically being hateful. This person also took issue with me not pointing out what I don't agree with in every film. I said I liked The Notebook's story better, and since I didn't mention the fornication in the film I must be completely for fornication and adultery (which I'm not by the way, but I don't hate you if you are!). I don't know how many occassions I've commented on the pointlessness and ridiculousness of female nudity in films, and how many times I've commented on other things I don't agree, but frankly if I did that in every review I'd stop writing them because, no one would want to read them and I'm not doing this to judge morality in movies. But I guess if I don't do it for every film doing it sporadically is hateful! So when someone who is not a constant reader of this blog comes in, takes issue with one review and acts like I don't say anything about anything else they ought to get they're facts straight.

    That's all I have to say, I've deleted the comments because the individual didn't want to have a civil adult conversation, they simply wanted to berate me. When you start your comments off by calling me names you want an argument not a discussion, and you've lost all credibility. And from now on I'm not responding to argument starters. Disagreement is fine, but all I ask is for civil disagreement, because reasoning with someone who wants to argue only causes you to get sucked into the depravity and nothing comes from it.

    So this individual thinks I'm hateful and spreading hatefulness around the world, and I'm not going to change them thinking that, but that's they're problem. There's no hate here, so go bark up some other tree. Frankly I feel sorry for their inability to even want to calmly discuss something, to even try to understand what I'm saying. I hit a hot button in their brain and therefore it's just easier to call me hateful and act like they know everything about me because I don't completely agree with their outlook on something.

  15. Hi Answer, I appreciate your honest review and thoughtful answers (you live up to your blog name!). I too share your sentiment about this touchy and fiery topic, but like you, I don't think it's fair that people immediately label you hateful, close-minded, intolerant etc. simply for not supporting something. People are forgetting tolerance vs. acceptance. Lots of people blatantly ridicule/scorn a certain worldview I subscribe to, but nowadays it's much more accepted (even commended) to do so than if we're to say something remotely unfavorable about homosexuality and its community.

    Anyway, I just want to say I think you give this movie a fair review and I for one didn't see you 'judging' the lifestyle, instead you focus on the story and the performance of the actors.

  16. @rtm - You know only one out of 100 or more felt the need to go off on me so I'm glad the majority of people are more level headed that they can understand what I said was not what this other person thinks.

    This person thinks I can't handle criticism, there's a big difference between criticism and lambasting me and accusing me of being hateful simply because I don't hold to their certain belief. Plus how does calling me hateful resolve anything!?! How ironic is it that this person thinks I'm basically persecuting a group of people so the answer is to in turn persecute me! Call me hateful. If I called you hateful for not agreeing to things I believe are you going to listen to what I have to say? Is that how disagreements are settled? No that's how wars are started.

    Thanks for the comment.

  17. I love how you keep talking about me, but you're too cowardly to speak directly to me. I put my own commentary to your review on Russell Crowe's IMDB board. If you actually want a dialogue, you can respond there...but we both know you're incapable of it.

  18. i love a good, healthy, open-minded debate between considerate, articulate adults! however, when an individual stoops to name-calling and throwing stones, it stops being entertainment. it's great to have different opinions and to disagree, but be polite about it, or don't join the debate and spoil it for those of us who want to have fun disagreeing.
    i have no problem with your removing unpleasant, personally-directed derogatory comments.

  19. Well that's fine go twist my words somewhere else, that's the only place you'll get anyone to agree with you. I tried having a conversation with you, but all you cared to do was call me hateful and claim to know everything else I stand for. You were never open to a civil discussion you just wanted to continually berate me. I think I gave you a fair shot and I think everyone else who saw your comments would agree, you're simply out to pick a fight because I don't agree with something that you do, and I'm hateful simply by not agreeing.

    I'm through "discussing" this with you, because it's clear you only want to point fingers, so why don't you go point fingers at someone else who wants to continue an endless argument, because it seems to me you're simply wasting your breath here. If you really think I'm that low to give a film a low score because I don't agree with a certain lifestyle then why are you even bothering sticking around here? Oh because you want to fight. We'll I'm not fighting anymore, I think we both said what we thought about 10 times and all that seemed to progress was more venom against me from you.

    So I'm not having this conversation any longer, if you want to think me cowardly who cares, you already think I'm hateful, at this point I really don't care what you think, you lost that when you started picking a fight.

  20. Okay coward, but more people are agreeing with my assessment of your review than the other way around. Tootles!

  21. One point you all seem to have missed is Russell Crowe did this film after doing "Romper Stomper" and part of his intent in accepting the role was to stop the skin heads from seeing him as a cult hero. He says as much in an interview with Charlie Rose or in the Actor's Studio.

    It shows a relationship. Straight or gay it's real. It shows a bond between father and son. I think it's a great film! Ta!


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