SPIDER & ROSE, released in Australia in 1994 and in the US in 1996, is a road movie about a feisty 70-year-old woman paired with a impudent, punky 21-year-old guy. The story of vastly different people developing a friendship when forced to spend time together has been told countless
times. But writer-director Bill Bennett has injected this particular version with witty dialogue, unique characters, stylish camerawork and some stunning surprises.
One year after a car accident that killed her husband and put her in the hospital, Rose (Ruth Cracknell) plans to return from Sydney to her son's country farmhouse. Spider (Simon Bossell), in his last day as an ambulance driver, is employed to take her on the six-hour drive. More concerned with
returning in time for a party that evening than with Rose's well-being, he treats her with little respect. She is no pushover, though, and ditches him for a ride with a kind, quirky beekeeper named Jack (Max Cullen).
Spider, now assured of missing his party, finds Rose and insists upon finishing his job. Just as the two start to become friendly, a kangaroo jumps in front of the ambulance, and they crash, breaking Spider's leg. While they wait for help, they discover that they're both free spirits, and slowly
they become friends.
Eventually, they bump into Jack again and make their way to the home of Rose's son. They're just in time for Rose's 70th birthday party, but she loses her good cheer when she discovers that her son wants to put her in a nursing home. Jack asks her to go away with him, but his plans are not
exciting enough for her. At the party, Rose collapses, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Spider starts to drive her towards the hospital, but then stops the car. Rose has faked the heart attack. He lets her take the car, and she drives away in search of more excitement and adventure.
Bennett made SPIDER & ROSE to explore his belief that people must learn to coexist. The two characters learn from each other through conversation and crisis. In one day, they progress from Rose throwing Spider's favorite tape out the window to the two sharing a bathtub (platonically).
Even more impressive than the script is the startling and daring use of the camera. Close-ups, spiraling camera shots, unusual angles and quick zooms are used effectively to characterize people and situations, and to keep the story fresh and unpredictable. The two car accidents are shocking and
exciting, and the film switches abruptly from comedy to drama without seeming choppy or haphazard. As the film progresses, the framing, dialogue, and combination of comedy and drama combine to tell a powerful story.
Given Bennett's love of precision, however, a scene in which Rose contemplates suicide is unnecessarily melodramatic, and the focus on insects, though it adds atmosphere, does not have enough connection to the story to warrant as much attention as it receives.
Cracknell and Boswell, both popular television personalities in Australia, are outstanding, making Spider and Rose multidimensional characters who will give the viewers much to relate to. Ultimately, their friendship shows that any two people can get along if given the time and opportunity.
(Violence, adult situations, nudity, mild profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: SPIDER & ROSE, released in Australia in 1994 and in the US in 1996, is a road movie about a feisty 70-year-old woman paired with a impudent, punky 21-year-old guy. The story of vastly different people developing a friendship when forced to spend time toget… (more)