Black Comedy ‘Judy and Punch’ Pulls the Right Strings

Alice Oscura – Guest Writer

Judy and Punch is an Australian black comedy and is the directorial debut of Australian actress, Mirrah Foulkes. She’s been in the acting circuit since 2005, but this is not her first time at writing a screen play. I’d have to say that for her first crack at directing, it’s not a bad attempt at all.

The film is about two married puppeteers Judy (Mia Wasikowska from the Alice in Wonderland films) and Punch (Damon Herriman of Justified). They live in the small town of Seaside (nowhere near the sea) in England. They are trying to bring their show back into the public eye and hopefully catch the attention of travelling talent scouts. However, Punch is an alcoholic and has failed many, many times to keep his promise to Judy to remain sober. A tragic event occurs that spurs on a super violent act which causes Judy to seek vengeance on her husband.

And presenting – a donkey! No sorry, my husband. I always get those two mixed up *audience laughs*

Now if you have probably heard the names before with regards to marionette shows held predominantly in Europe then you are right, it is based on the same. But the names are usually the other way around “Punch and Judy”. It’s a traditional puppet show starring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy. It usually involves two characters at a time and tends to be violent with the other character always ending up getting beaten by Punch’s slapstick. The violence is meant to provoke the shock factor in the audience which in turn causes them to laugh.

A Punch and Judy show has been traced all the way back to the 1600s with its roots in the Italian commedia dell’arte. Punch’s character is often symbolized as the Trickster or Lord of Misrule. Punch’s wife was originally called “Joan”, but it was thought too difficult to pronounce during the performance with the accompanying instruments, so it was eventually changed to Judy. The cast for the show usually includes their baby, a hungry crocodile, a clown, an officious policeman, and a prop string of sausages.

Nah. I think the red looks better on ya

I have to commend the director for making full use of the usual characters from the original Punch and Judy shows by breathing life into them with the use of real representations on screen. I can see that she did extensive research for her script and that in itself is extremely admirable. The intertwining of humour and tragedy is done in imaginative and sometimes disturbing ways. The brutality is wacky even though it touches on the viciousness of what is known as negligent murder and domestic abuse. That is why the use of switching the name that usually appears first in the title of the film is a subtle touch in representing which character is going to be the headliner in this one.

Wasikowska’s portrayal of Judy is a notch in the belt of feminists everywhere by seeking to right the wrongs that have been done to her. She also ends up being the catalyst for change in a small corrupted town that used silly superstitions to condemn “witches” which was actually a condemnation of people that are simply different in society. Herriman I believe was channeling his inner Charles Manson in this one, since he has played the role twice lately in Netflix’s series Mindhunters and in Quentin Taratino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. His character is so dark and ridiculous that you are not quite sure how it’s going to play out in the end for him. He begins to regret his actions only when he realizes that he cannot perform the same quality of shows without Judy by his side and he becomes even more violent and desperate. That’s why it makes what ends up happening to him justifiable.

Is that a knife in my stomach or are you just unhappy to see me?

I really got some Tim Burtion- esque vibes with this one because it’s the type of material that he uses, even down to the colour schemes. You get that theatrical atmosphere with the acting being sometimes over the top but, that’s what suits a film with this type of material and genre.

A brilliant flip the switch, baroque-styled piece worthy of a theatrical performance!

Alice’s Score: 7 out of 10

For my review of Netflix thriller The Devil All the Time you can click here. And for more darkly humorous film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here. 

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.

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