It's pretty amazing that a film like Kenny, a mockumentary about a man who runs a port-a-loo delivery and cleaning business, manages to rise above immature toilet jokes and becomes a film that is charming, warm and smartly written. There is, of course, the odd cheap toilet gag (really, it'd be almost impossible to avoid a few in a film like this), but most of the humour comes from Kenny's personality and the warmth of the film comes from his complete decency as a human being.
The film opens with Kenny (Shane Jacobson) talking on the phone to a prospective client. He asks his potential client questions like "Are you serving alcohol, or any hot curries?" Then he states that because the function was serving alcohol and was a curry night, it would affect the services he was providing. I remember smiling inwardly at this, but it wasn't because I saw images of people queuing up outside a port-a-loo after having a chilli cook-off. It was because of the way Kenny was asking the questions. He was completely deadpan and serious, because this is his business. There's no humour in toilet jokes for him, because toilets are how he makes his living. I had a feeling after this opening scene that I would like this film.
As we get to know more about Kenny, we learn that he has a child from a broken marriage, that his father is ashamed that his son is no more than a toilet delivery boy, and that his co-workers (well, one co-worker specifically) come to him with endless complaints about the state of their love-lives. All of the characters are quintessentially Australian. They don't have much, but what they do have they cherish, and while they might not be book-smart, they're not dumb and are incredibly genuine. Kenny's wife appears to have an inexplicable hatred for Kenny (admittedly, her face is blurred, presumably because she didn't want to be shown in the "documentary", and we only ever hear her when she's dropping their son off). This is pretty difficult to believe, because the way the film is edited makes Kenny out to be an engaging, well-meaning larrikin. He has an endless reserve of similes and metaphors (some great lines are, "there's a smell in there that will outlast religion", "I drink beer like it's going out of fashion and I'm a new trend-setter", and that on Melbourne Cup day they'd be "busier than a one-armed brick-layer in Baghdad"), most of them very, very funny.
And so the film progresses, Kenny going from function to function, visiting his father with his son, and taking his son to work (on Melbourne Cup day) because his ex-wife decided to drop the child on him at the last minute. Eventually, the film takes Kenny to an exhibition about portable toilets in Nashville. He makes friends with an Asian businessman he nicknames "The Sushi Cowboy", and is oblivious (for a little while) to the advances of an air stewardess.
There's another moment at the end of the Melbourne Cup that endeared me to the film even more. A young girl, about twenty, is so drunk that she simply squats in the car park and lets her bladder go. Now, that would be the punch line of a joke in a Rob Schneider or Adam Sandler comedy, but in Kenny, it's a sad moment. Kenny sees this from his car as he leaves, and the look on his face is one of disgust and dismay. When I saw that look on his face, I fully understood that Kenny is a man of dignity, a man who has a difficult job, and is pretty damn good at it. There's a montage that shows us the way Kenny is treated by his clients (he offers to shake one man's hand and is ignored, and is yelled at and abused by several others), which leaves us feeling genuine sympathy for him. Kenny is a man who does a difficult job, and doing a difficult job deserves respect.
This film, obviously immensely influenced by This is Spinal Tap, doesn't quite achieve greatness because, as is often the case, the ending falls flat. I remember that when I saw it, the last shot of the film drew huge laughs, but I was more confused than won over. I suppose it is quite funny, but it is inconsistent with who Kenny is and what we've seen of him in the film. I would have liked to see Kenny be the same, understanding, well-meaning bloke through to the end of the film instead of retaliating in a pretty cruel way as he does at the end of the film. It is fitting (the message is that Kenny is defecating on the world that has defecated on him for so long), but perhaps not worthy of the 90 minutes of class before it.
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