TEN ran its first promo for its Hawke telemovie on the same night that Julia Gillard was staring down Kevin Rudd for the job of Prime Minister. Yesterday our newest PM had to fend off suggestions she had reneged on a deal with Rudd. This week Paul Keating also claimed he had “carried” Bob Hawke through several of his years as PM.
Honestly, can you get better publicity on the eve of your telemovie hitting our screens?
The truth is Hawke doesn’t need any free kicks because it stands up on its own merits.
The bio-pic from Producer Richard Keddie is an excellent essay on a most-colourful character. Bob Hawke was a man of the people who carried his attributes of mateship and passion into the land’s top office. It netted him a 75% popularity rating and four terms in office.
Through it all he wore his heart on his sleeve, swearing, crying, drinking and even, more privately, womanising. Such personality traits make him a larger than life TV character, personified here by Richard Roxburgh.
But being so well-known is also a double-edged sword for any performer. On screen Hawke has previously been portrayed by David Field (The Night We Called it a Day), Gerry Connolly (A Royal Commission Into the Australian Economy) and Max Gillies (The Gillies Report). Roxburgh’s is necessarily the most dimensional of them all.
Roxburgh looks the part with his impeccable wig, although the make-up is caked on for ageing. His familiar voice cuts through in ways we recognise. He goes for the spirit of Hawke rather than a characterisation. Up close under a TV lens it is also highly theatrical.
Contrasting him is the Machiavellian role of Paul Keating, played brilliantly by a reserved Felix Williamson. This is by far the more interesting of the roles because of his Shakespearean role in the chess game and the cool, austere resolve with which he manouevres.
The power struggle between the two is the essence of the tale, rather than any internal demons Hawke encountered from trade unionist to Prime Minister. There aren’t quite enough moments that illustrate how the PM ultimately believed his own publicity and became so isolated within his party, or how members of his family were left on the outer.
Key moments depicted in the telemovie include his famous Australia’s Cup victory speech, tears over learning of his daughter’s heroin addiction, and the secret deal done at the Lodge to handover to Paul Keating. There is nothing of the promise that no child will live in poverty by 1990, or the famous fluffy white bath robe photos with biographer turned lover Blanche d’Alpuget (Asher Keddie).
d’Alpuget and Hazel Hawke (Rachael Blake) portray the two women in Hawke‘s life with the former appearing as early as the 1970s (hence the rather youthful casting of Keddie). Hazel is portrayed as a quiet anchor to her boisterous husband. Sacha Horler also delivers a fine performance as Hawke’s aide, Jean Sinclair.
Others to appear in the film include veteran actors Terry Norris and Julia Blake as Hawke‘s parents and a supporting role from Josh Lawson.
The timeline of the tale is sometimes confusing, shifting from 1990s to 1970s and 1980s. But the production design Carrie Kennedy and Ben Morieson wonderfully captures the drab Canberra of the ’70s and ’80s.
Following the credits there is a rollcall of achievements by Hawke, which seems so lovingly offered that you can’t help but wonder if it was a thankyou to Hawke for his consultation on the telemovie. It conspicuously leaves out any failures.
Nevertheless, while it won’t surpass The Dismissal (also produced for TEN) or William McInnes’ title performance in the Curtin telemovie (also produced by Richard Keddie), this is a fine achievement. Definitely worth your attention.
Hawke airs 8:30pm Sunday on TEN.