Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friday Film-Night - Paperback Hero

Anne McAllister and Kate Walker took Hugh Jackman appreciation to a whole new level at romance writer conferences in Australia and New Zealand a while back. But if you missed Hugh-in-a-towel, Anne is here to tell you that you really need to catch him in this!

Paperback Hero a romantic comedy that makes me smile every time I watch it. And I watch it a lot. Of course it stars Hugh Jackman, and that immediately puts it on my A list. But it gets better because Hugh plays Jack Willis, a tough, happy-go-lucky Aussie truck driver -- who just happens to write romance novels.

Now I ask you, what's not to like?

Writing romance novels does not, as you might imagine, go very well with an Australian outback 'man's man' image. In fact no one, except his dog Lance, knows Jack writes at all. He uses a pseudonym and no one is the wiser -- until the book becomes a best seller, and all of a sudden his publishers want to meet their new hit author, Ruby Vale.

Uh-oh. Because Ruby just happens to be real. She also happens to be the girl Jack has known -- and teased -- forever.

Ruby is a "cussing, fiery Aussie bush chick," according to Claudia Karvan who plays her. And it's clear from the moment she buzzes his rig with her crop dusting plane that Ruby is going to be every bit Jack's equal and is determined to give as good as she gets. Besides her crop dusting business, Ruby runs the Boomerang Cafe in rough-and-ready Lucktown. She is tough and capable and sure of herself -- in everything except matters of the heart.

Just like Jack.

In fact there has been a teasing sniping war -- and an unacknowledged attraction --going on between Ruby and Jack for years. In his book by the same name, Antony Bowman, who both wrote and directed Paperback Hero, tells a bit about their history that never makes it into the film. It doesn't matter. You feel it. The simmer of desire. The heat. The awareness.

But neither admits it. Neither dares. Jack goes his own way, and Ruby hers. She, in fact, has gone so far as to get engaged to Jack's friend Hamish. But somehow the wedding keeps getting postponed.

Then Jack's editor, big-city-chick Ziggy Keane turns up, in a wonderful comic performance by Angie Milliken, and all of a sudden nothing is the same.

Jack has to 'fess up and tell Ruby he's appropriated her name. Then he has to convince her to be the author of his book. Then he has to bribe her to go to Sydney for a publicity and marketing campaign. One thing leads to another as one thing often does.

It's a romance novel come to the screen. And as a romance novel, we all know how it ends -- happily ever after. You don't have to watch it for that.

You have to watch it to enjoy the repartee between Jack and Ruby, the awkward tentative dance toward emotional intimacy that delights and charms. You have to watch it for the characters in the Boomerang cafe, the black widow decor in Ziggy's apartment, the completely perfect way Jack finally proclaims his love at the end.

You have to watch it so you can be dazzled by Hugh's energy, his charm, his intensity, his grin -- everything that adds up to 'star power' that was evident even then.

There is wonderful chemistry between Jack and Ruby. There is terrific chemistry among the many of the characters in Lucktown who are eccentric, yet ultimately believable. They have stories that exist beyond the slightness of their roles. And while it is the story of Jack and Ruby that is central, the film does more than focus on them. It spotlights a particular culture and a universal emotion at the same time and does justice to them both.

The DVD is available in Region 4 and Region 2 (that would be Down Under, Mexico, South America, Europe -- minus France -- and a few sundry other places). There might be some copies kicking around North America (I've spotted some on but I'm not sure it was ever officially released here.

This is too bad, because it ought to be required watching for all romance authors and readers. It has appeared on some North American television channel in an "edited" form. That's better than nothing, but not as good as the original.

If you can't get anything else here is a clip of Jack and Ruby singing "Cryin'" from YouTube.

It will whet your appetite. It's too bad it stops before they got to the next bit -- when they were walking back to the hotel carrying their prize -- a frozen turkey.

Warm and fuzzy rating: 10 (need you ask?)

Anne's latest book,
The Santorini Bride, is a March title in Australia and New Zealand. It was a February Presents and Modern. Watch for its spin-off, The Boss's Wife For A Week, coming in October in the US.

Find out more about both books on
Anne's blog or her website, which is supposed to be revamped sometime in April (every once in a while Hugh-in-a-towel makes an appearance!!) And today she has featured a fanvid from YouTube with clips from Paperback Hero.


  1. I LOVED this movie! It was the first one I remember seeing Hugh Jackman in and it made me a fan.

  2. You temptress! You made me want to watch it all over again - and again . ..

    So it's ready as my reward WIGTBBD (when I get the B book done)


  3. You tempted me so my project for the day is to find it.

  4. Jennifer, you obviously have great taste! It made me a fan, too.

    Kate, you can always use it for inspiration if Raul is being annoying. Remind him that there are other heroes in the world!

    Christa, good luck. Being in Canada, you might find it. Hard to come by in the US, sadly. I don't know why, either, as you'd think, as popular as Mr Jackman has become, that they'd be making sure his old films were out and available.

  5. Oh, I want to watch this movie. Someone had told me about it, but I didn't write it down and promptly forgot. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Hope you can track it down, Melissa. Let me know what you think!