50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (2005) Poster

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Great young cast who are poised to do more no doubt
jsb-2013 October 2005
Not as true to the book as it could have been. Some of the more feminine moments in the book ended up on the cutting room floor. However congratulations to the young male actors for very brave performances. The golden colours appear too contrived at times and this was unnecessary because the landscape is awe inspiring anyway.

At screenings in Wanaka this last week I am told the audience is clapping at the conclusion of each screening. Well done to all involved particularly given the budget the film enjoyed.

This is another example of a New Zealand film that takes a universal theme (the complexities and confusions of adolescence and early sexual awareness)and puts it into a very traditional rural context and reminds us of the normality of it all.
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Make that 51 ways...
chris-23629 October 2005
Before expressing my opinion, I must say that (while I have no personal involvement in the film project) being a school teacher, who's gay, and who grew up and lives in the area in which this film is set - I strongly identify with it.

"50 Ways of Saying Fabulous" has a strong ring of authenticity to it. This may not translate well to the world outside Central Otago, New Zealand - but for a local there's a lot to recognise. A 'coming of age' film it is, but it is also a lot more. It's a brave telling of the true childhood stories that we tend not to allow to see the light of adulthood.

The actors achieve the perfect balance between the paradoxical naivety and knowingness characteristic of the early teenage years. They inspired me with the bravery of their (sometimes misguided) idealism and the story leads them to expose, through their inevitable frustrations, a lot of the senselessness of the restrictions of our narrow society. I loved the relative absence of developed adult roles. The children were not only the main protagonists, but with the unwavering focus on their story: their view became ours - no translation required. Those who would criticise the 'cheesy low budget space-show' scenes woven throughout the film must surely have forgotten the fantasies of their own childhood, or perhaps they never needed to resort to fantasy to escape an all-too-restrictive daily reality. These sequences really were very funny in all of their overt symbolism.

The bravery and incredible sincerity of the outcast character "Roy" (played with unwavering emotional and physical conviction by Jay Collins) struck a chord with me. The tragedy of his determination was almost too much to bear.

I found the shifting of accent for the character "Jamie" (played by Michael Dorman) a little jarring. Somehow "South Auckland Polynesian, circa 2005" segued into "Aussie Battler" a few too many times for me to suspend disbelief.

The filming, in the stunning wilds of Central Otago, captured the vast emptiness of the place beautifully. The characters owned the terrain, there was nothing else there. The intense colour saturation reinforced the historical nature of the film (It was set in the 70's). The drought, and the constant threat of fire, added beautifully to the undertone of tension. Something might go wrong.

Stories like this need to be told over and over in all their variety and colour. I loved sitting in our local cinema surrounded by teenagers from the school at which I teach and seeing them enjoying and responding to the message to "be themselves". New Zealand is perhaps coming of age too, to see a feature film of this nature to fruition.

Anyone with a curiosity for the culture of this isolated southern island would do well to catch this film. It adds a new chapter to the story of where we come from as told in the likes of "The Piano", "Heavenly Creatures" and "Once Were Warriors".

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at last a movie on this subject that is honest, real and uplifting.
niamtrawets24 September 2005
The movie tackles a sensitive subject in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. The plot moves at a brisk pace, and the acting is always excellent, especially by the three lead child actors. Dialogue is true to life, and sometimes very funny. I found several of the scenes very moving, especially those where the characters try to come to terms with the complexity of their adolescent emotions. The story concentrates on the children's viewpoint, with adults mostly absent - this is a good idea as puts the focus onto the relationships of the adolescents, which are the most dramatic. The period art direction is faultless, the landscape settings are awesome, and the music adds a nice comic touch. This is a very entertaining film that also carries an important and heartfelt message - that we are all basically the same and need to show each other tolerance and understanding. That's an important message in this day and age.
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The 'look' actually reminded me a lot of the genius & madness of Canadian Director Guy Madden's films.
michele-11819 September 2005
What an enjoyable watch with a real sense of rural New Zealand in the 70's. There were some wonderful performances from the children & the audience embraced the gentle humour & story, especially it seemed, an older generation. It connected with an audience who either knew these characters or anyone who had grappled with the complications, the lows, the trivia & the joys of growing up. The landscape of Central Otago looked stunning & was transformed into an amazing moonscape in the day-for-night scenes - loved that moody twilight world.

The 'look' actually reminded me a lot of the genius & madness of Canadian Director Guy Madden's films. The 'zany' quality w/ camera zooms, fantasy sequences & OTT music worked fabulously together, but it's a rare beast that also has a sensitive, good looking and well told story - all bundled into one fab package. Well done I say!!
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A contrived, awkwardly directed coming of age story.
burntime-12 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the novel of the same name by Graeme Aitken, and directed by Stewart Main, 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS is a coming-of-age story set in rural New Zealand in 1979.

Its protagonist is Billy (Andrew Patterson), an overweight and overly-imaginative 12 year old boy main whose passion in life is watching science fiction adventures and reenacting them with his tomboy cousin Lou (Harriet Beatie).

Lou loves rugby; Billy hates the game, a fact which confirms his status as an object of derision among the other local kids. The arrival of the even more awkward Roy (a gangly Jay Collins) at their small regional school changes the pecking order, and provides even Billy with someone that he can bully and belittle. Despite the tension between them, the two boys also embark on early sexual explorations together down by the creek, although neither of them know what a 'poofter' is, and accept the taunts of their peers to that effect in pained innocence.

Complicating matters is another new arrival, Jamie (the charismatic Michael Dorman), a handsome young farmhand working for Billy's father, whose presence becomes the catalyst for tensions that disrupt the shared lives of these three almost-teens.

While 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS does have merit in its honest exploration of the sexual awakening of a young gay boy on the verge of adolescence, and is occasionally warm and affecting, its narrative is episodic, and its dramatic structure is often contrived. Too, the plodding, unimaginative direction fails to imbue the story with any real tension, although several scenes, especially those shot at night, looked superb, with evocative lighting and composition.

Had its running time been cut back to 45 minutes to an hour, this would have been a stronger film. As it was, its 90 minute duration definitely outstays its welcome.
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Fabulous times 50
mclyndle16 July 2006
The story of my life as a young overweight gay boy growing up in a small town 35 years ago. What a darling little boy. I also noticed how very true it was that the young man knew what he wanted. His eyes were bleeding to see what he wanted to see! And, yet, his girlfriend, who was not all too happy about being a girl, had no concept of attraction to anyone. She just knew she wanted to play sports and it was her job to take up for the "puffits" of the world. My favorite line was near the end when he said he "belonged here." That sense of belonging is what brings us all together.

Sweet movie. Lynn
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If you've read the book, AVOID the film. Or just avoid it anyway...
miss_modular14 April 2006
The opening night film of the 2006 Melbourne Queer Film Festival, this is an overlong, aimless and rambling piece of fluff.

THANKFULLY the original novel's touchy theme of emerging adolescent sexuality was tastefully handled. Larry Clark, TAKE NOTE.

  • If you're a fan of the original novel, don't bother. While the characters and major plot points remain the same, the parts in between these make no sense or have had their context COMPLETELY changed.

  • The young lead actors, while charming, seemed confused and crippled by the badly paced and downright bi-polar script.

  • If I hear "fubbulous" and that g-damned muzak played again, my head shall explode Cronenberg-style.

CONCLUSION: Love the book, movie BITES ARSE. Two star rating: one for the film getting made, the other for the young actors giving it their best. Expected so much more from the writer/director of the ABSOLUTELY SPANKING (read: fantastic) melodrama "Desperate Remedies" (1995) Sorry Mr. Main.
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Engrossing coming-of-age story with a strong sense of place and time
Laakbaar19 October 2012
This coming-out story of 12-year-old Billy is set in rural New Zealand in 1975. Actually, it's more of a Bildungsroman, because it's no secret to anyone that Billy is gay. His family and friends accept him for who he is, but he's having problems at school.

We follow Billy as he shows us his home, family and childhood friends (mainly tomboy Lou) and his school life, where he is bullied and struggling with his dislike of rugby.

We follow him as he experiences his first relationship with fellow "pufter" Roy and his first crush on older and completely unobtainable Jamie (played by a sexy young Michael Dorman).

"50 Ways" has an incredibly strong sense of time and place. I can't remember any movie that so successfully reconstructs the 1970s. The clothes, the haircuts, the town scenes, the homes -- it was all spot on. There was even a fondue dinner. Am I imagining it, but did the cinematography somehow reproduce the quality and texture of photographs from the 1970s? Movie goers are also treated to almost two hours of beautiful New Zealand landscape.

Main seems to have directed this movie using a group of rural New Zealand children. The line between fiction and documentary is a thin one. The child actors in this movie appeared only in this movie and almost nowhere else. How often do you see real children acting out a graphic gay coming-of-age movie? How did Main accomplish this? I think this would have been unthinkable in puritan America, wouldn't it? For this reason alone, the film is remarkable.

The realism is astonishing. This is not a phony after-school special school. These are not American movie children. These are children without guile and sophistication, without internet, without MTV. Main shows us children and school life as they really were, with all its complexities, difficulties and awkwardness. Sure, the acting was occasionally amateurish, or the dialogue a little forced, but for the most part I felt like I was watching a real group of New Zealand children ca. 1975.

Andrew Paterson, Harriet Beattie and Jay Collins -- I'd like you to thank you for playing in this movie. You did a great job. Your characters will remain with me for a long time.

I found the film to be moving, engrossing, relevant. I thought the movie had good character development and a few interesting plot twists. The complex and problematic relationship between soft Billy and tough Lou was the core of the movie. We outgrow our childhood friends as we discover ourselves.

Main doesn't sugar coat what it's like to grow up gay. It's a rich and full look at every aspect. Billy's hopeless and awkward crush on Jamie felt true. I felt really sorry for hapless Roy. Billy's difficulties with Roy and Jamie reflect core relationship issues that reverberate throughout every gay man's life. The struggle with "rugby" (and what that represents) is also familiar. Adults play a very minor role in this movie. Isn't that also accurate for gay teenagers? What I particularly liked was the way that Main explored how we come to terms with those dreaded words ("pufter", "faggot", "queer", or whatever). "What does that really mean?" And "Yes, that is what I am." Dealing with those words is a big part of growing up.

At times the director introduces some whimsy, mostly based on the theme of Billy's imagined fantasies of a television show similar to Lost in Space. Billy identifies with Lana; Lou identifies with Brad. It's difficult to know what to make of such a deliberate and in-your-face use of cheese in a movie like this. I have to confess I was also into these shows when I was a kid. Or perhaps I have a high threshold for cheese. I think it's accurate to make a television show the centre of a boy's imagination in the 1970s.

I see the movie has not got a strong score on IMDb. However, I wouldn't let this dissuade you from seeing it. Gay movies tend to get inexplicably and undeservedly low scores. Worth seeing!
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Nice camera work in search of a decent script
denesmith18 June 2008
What could have been a great film was let down entirely by an appalling script that makes Shortland Street look Oscar worthy.

With a damn awful soundtrack (did they run out of money?), melodramatic silent screen era responses to unrealistic dialogue and a cast that looks the part but cant act to save themselves.....i struggled to make it to the end.

The saving grace of the film was the stunning NZ scenery and realistic visual atmosphere.

Unfortunately it just wasn't enough to save this incredibly disjointed film.
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Teenage confusion and gender roles
atlantis200624 March 2011
Stewart Main's production is a coming-of-age story that bears little resemblance to other typical and predictable movies. 12 year-old Billy idly watches a TV show with his best friend, a rather tomboyish girl who excels at boys sports and acts a bit manly. Inspired by what he sees on TV, Billy wears a fake ponytail and pretends to be Lana, the heroine of the sci-fi series while Lou, the girl, poses as the male hero. They subvert traditional gender affiliated roles as part of a game, but they are also aware of a certain otherness, a certain counterpart that can exist only in private.

The figure of the double, largely described in fantastic literature, is usually developed when the main character fails to recognize his own-self, and starts experiencing a feeling of alienation. The double can adopt several forms, as for instance the form of the exact replica of the character, like in Dostoyevsky's "The double", or on the contrary, it can become the form of an absence of reflection in the mirror image, a horrifying 'presence' as in Maupassant's "Le Horla". Clearly Billy and his friend Lou find an ideal refugee in the form of fictional characters that supply that which they are lacking; Billy is a boy that wishes to be a girl, and Lou is a girl that wishes to be a boy.

In this scenario, two other characters will help develop the dynamic of the double. First of all is Roy, the new kid in the school, who soon becomes attracted to Billy. A most revealing moment takes place when Roy is picked on by kids that held him to the ground, as a consequence of all this roughhousing, the young boy exhibits an erection that soon makes the other lads lose interest in him. This moment is defined by the emergence of sexual excitation in Roy's penis, an irruption of the drive of the real in his body; such pulsations also exist in Billy who stays behind and accepts Roy's invitation to touch his "stiffy".

Do they experiment joy only through phallic exploration? The phallus has no image, the absence of representation in the visual field "signifies that in everything that is imaginary localization, the phallus appears in the form of a lack". As the days go by, Billy is not acquitted of guilt, but nonetheless he decides to join his friend Roy in a shack, wherein they mutually masturbate. But why does Billy seem uncomfortable after these sessions? Perhaps because if the phallus 'is characterized by a lack', then any image would only 'mask' that lack, evoking something which is absent, and in principle one can define that absence as something that pertains to our bodily existence in so far as what is missing in the virtual image is our real existence itself. In the same way Billy can never truly be Lana, from the TV show, he cannot envision his acts with Roy except in the darkness and secrecy of the shack. But what part of our anatomy permits the distinction between oneself and one's own image, including the multitude of others with whom we tend to identify? It is this distinction that seems to get distorted and somewhat effaced in the phenomenon of the double.

The second important character in the story is Jamie, a guy in his twenties. As soon as he enters into the scene, Billy seems to forget all about Roy. He now starts daydreaming about this guy, this strange adult that could eventually pay some attention to him. But before Billy can get closer to Jamie, he must first decide if he should adopt the male or the female position, which is basically the same decision Lou has to make. As the relationship with Roy deteriorates, new problems will arise. The double, again, could signal the coming of ominous events.
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Merely OK
meaninglessbark14 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Despite reviews referring to 50 Ways as "charming" the movie is hardly a pleasant coming of age film. If you're looking for something sunny and lighthearted to watch look elsewhere. Though 50 Ways is quite sunny in its setting, New Zealand during a drought, there is a mean tone throughout the film as the cruelty of children and families is accurately portrayed over and over and over again. (So much so that when the films main bully, a standard stock character adolescent bastard, plunges over a bridge to the rocks below it feels like a bright spot in the film.)

The scenery is nice, the acting is good. The music is horrible and plentiful, meandering flute tunes that seem as if they're meant to hammer home the notion of how charming it all is.

50 Ways is pretty boring, nothing much happens except children being mean to anyone different than them and some moments of melodrama which seem thrown in just to make the film more exciting. There are also some fantasy sequences which are so irregular in their appearance that they seem as if they somehow bled over from an entirely different film.
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An absolute GEM of a film
shapeupwithsimone7 September 2011
'50 Ways of Saying Fabulous' is an absolute gem of a film. I was so thoroughly delighted to come across it inadvertently, thanks to the continuously dedicated efforts of Wolfe Video. Perhaps as an Aussie growing up during the same period and now having lived abroad for 19 years I found it particularly refreshing and nostalgic. My only wish is that this film had been helped to find a wider audience, as I'm convinced that it would have become a cult classic. I was disappointed in the sensationalised trailer which I only watched after having seen the film, as I wanted to post it on face book and encourage all of my friends to see the film. This movie should be seen by both queer and straight audiences alike, as it's themes are universal. Sadly, I could not bring myself to 'post' the trailer (which was not remotely representative of the film) as it would have put a lot of people off. Please re-release this pearla of a movie in order that it can have a new and on-going life in the canon of superb cinema. Simone L. Petersen
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I'm LOVIN it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
evi1_munchkin18 September 2005
The BEST movie out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved it!!!!! I thought that the whole setting and story plot was beautifully set out and just overall you have to see it to get what I'm saying!!!!! I thought the character Billy, that Andrew Patterson played was just done perfectly and it just shows you that life has its surprises and it's ups and downs. Obviously everyone has their own characters and personalities and it's sad that not many people follow their heart, cuz that just shows our uniqueness and individuality. I would definitely give this movie 10/10 and I'm soooo buying the DVD when it comes out cuz its just one of the best movie's I've seen in a long time!
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Has a certain "me-too" Quality, but otherwise a good coming-of-age film
hughgordon14 September 2005
On September 8, 2005 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I had the chance to see the world premiere of the film "50 Ways of Saying Fabulous." Based on the Novel by Graeme Aitken, 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous is a coming-of-age film set in the '70s in rural Australia.

It stars Andrew Paterson as Billy, a chubby thirteen year-old kid who's interests are different from the regular kids in his school.

While all the other kids are interested becoming rugby stars, Billy dreams of becoming a character in a children's TV show quite similar to Lost in Space. Normally – this would lead to a lot of criticism from his classmates, but Billy's best friend just happens to be Lou (Harriet Beattie) – his cousin, and the best rugby player in the school.

So Billy lives blissfully in his own little world, faux-ponytail and all, until the arrival of puberty. Add to that a few new faces, and a few unexpected twists, and Billy's life will never be the same.

Great effort was made to keep the look of Australia in the mid seventies. Everything from the clothing to the cars – looked authentic. Impressive – considering that this was not a big budget film. The Director Stewart Main has a love for his homeland, and it shows - as Australia is filmed beautifully. In particular – the night scenes are reminiscent of the older days of filming, and not the normal "night = blue lighting" we've become accustomed to seeing.

At the screening, the director said he wanted to make a film that would appeal to all audiences, young and old. That brought about a very quick response from a member of the audience, "Not in America!" This film deals with friendship, homosexuality, love and lust. While it's far from an explicit film, its subject matter will prevent it from showing up any multiplex in America. In Canada on the other hand, the film already has distribution rights. So unlike many TIFF films, this one will be coming soon to a store near you.

The film is not without it's problems. Although it has a healthy mix of imagination, humour, and charm, the end lacks punch. And while it does try to rise above the genre, it has an unattractive "me too" quality. It doesn't offer anything truly unique like the intensity of the movie "Thirteen", or the cattiness of "Mean Girls".

That doesn't mean I didn't like the film. The actors were all wonderful. The cinematography was great.

It's not a film worth going to a theatre to see, but it is a film worth seeing. A nice rental.
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thechauncy5 October 2005
I thought 50 ways was an inspirational movie and Harriet Beattie is the most fantastic child actor I've seen in years. truly she captured her role as Lou and lifted the film to a whole new level. Good work Harriet and we hope to see you in future films I thought 50 ways was an inspirational movie and Harriet Beattie is the most fantastic child actor I've seen in years. truly she captured her role as Lou and lifted the film to a whole new level. Good work Harriet and we hope to see you in future films I thought 50 ways was an inspirational movie and Harriet Beattie is the most fantastic child actor I've seen in years. truly she captured her role as Lou and lifted the film to a whole new level. Good work Harriet and we hope to see you in future films
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