A Little Bit of Soul

A Little Bit of Soul (1998)
Vanguard Films
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham, Frances O’Connor

With their recent DVD releases, Vanguard Films is proving themselves to be quite adept at providing unique film experiences from overseas. One of their latest offerings is the offbeat Australian comedy ’A Little Bit of Soul’, which stars Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush.

As the film opens, we are introduced to Dr. Richard Shorkinghorn (David Wenham), who has been experimenting on chickens to find a cure for progeria (a disease which causes rapid aging in children). He has applied for research grants, but no one wants to fund his project. He then receives an invitation to spend the weekend with heiress Grace Michael (Heather Michael) and her politician husband Godfrey Usher (Geoffrey Rush), so that they can discuss his research. Richard’s excitement is quelled when he arrives at the Michael’s ranch to find his ex-girlfriend and ex-assistant Kate (Frances O’Connor) has been invited as well. They soon learn that they must put their petty bickering aside, as there is something very strange going on with Grace and Godfrey. They like to drink heavily, play dress-up, and then there’s the occasional bloody death on the property. Richard and Kate must decide how far they are willing to go to get the money that they need.

’A Little Bit of Soul’ is a quirky film, but once it hits its stride, it has some very funny moments. The problem is that it takes about 50 minutes for the film to gel, so we are left with only about 30 minutes of quality material. The first two-thirds of the film is made up of dreamy images that don’t really add up to much. However, much of this is forgotten following a hilarious debate about the proper way to bury a chicken. Writer/director Peter Duncan (’Children of the Revolution’) draws some fine performances from his cast and offers some nice shots of the Australian countryside.

The Vanguard DVD of ’A Little Bit of Soul’ presents the film in its letterboxed form with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is as expected non-anamorphic. The picture is very clear, with some slight grain at times. The digital transfer does reveal some slight flaws in the source material, but these are minor. The framing appears to be accurate and the color balancing is very nice. The audio on the disc is a Dolby 2-channel surround, which offers a well-balanced soundtrack with occasional action from the rear speakers. Overall, this is a nice presentation of a unique and clever comedy.