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Cosi

Release date: March 28, 1996
Directed by: Mark Joffe
Written by: Louis Nowra
Produced by: Richard Brennan, Timothy White
Running time: 90 minutes

Louis (Ben Mendelsohn), a young Sydney amateur theater director, is offered a job with a Governmental program for the rehabilitation of patients in a Sydney institution for mentally ill. His project is overrun by one of the patients who wants to put on stage "Cosi Fan Tutte". None of the patients in the cast is able to sing and none of them knows Italian. Through many difficulties Louis and his cast develop a deep understanding for each other. After many backdrops and crises, the play adapted for the unusual cast is produced and performed.

Cast & Characters

Ben Mendelsohn (Lewis), Barry Otto (Roy), Toni Collette (Julie), Rachel Griffiths (Lucy), Aden Young (Nick), Colin Friels (Errol), Jacki Weaver (Cherry), Pamela Rabe (Ruth), Paul Chubb (Henry), Colin Hay (Zac), David Wenham (Doug), Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Kirner), Kerry Walker (Sandra), Robin Ramsay (Minister for Health), Henry Maas (Bernard Goldman), Jack Walsh (Air Wrestler), Lawrence Woodward (Electrician), Brian Ellison (Rigger), Tamara Kuldin (Seamstress), Dennis Allard (Carpenter), Toni Moran (Painter), David Anthony (Knucklehead), Skye Wansey (Ms Spock), Nick Penn (Ballroom Man), Dan Wyllie (Closed Ward Nurse), Damian Monk (Closed Ward Nurse), Rachael Maza (Nurse at Concert), Robert Noble (Mens Ward Nurse), Samantha McDeed (Pink Lady), Michael Robertson (Cussing Patient), Samantha Rebillet (Student Actor), Anita Hegh (Waitress)

Production Notes

Louis Nowra’s play was originally set in 1972, but he reworked the material for the film version to make it contemporary – even going as far as including a reference to the way the New South Wales Government was closing mental hospitals in the early 1990s. The film, directed with verve by Mark Joffe, never quite loses its theatrical origins, but nor does it have to. It’s about the theatre, after all. Joffe assembled a great cast, including his “Spotswood” actors Ben Mendelsohn and Toni Collette, who share an awkward romance once again. David Stratton, writing in Variety, described Cosi as “fast, funny and cleverly acted”. He also said it was “warm, generous, sentimental and expert entertainment.” The curator at Australian Screen Online said it “has a likeable humour, appealing characters and a compassionate heart. It’s not really about mental illness so much as a tribute to the healing power of performance, and the theatre in general.” Not all reviews were positive. James Berardinelli described Cosi as “a half-baked amalgamation of A Midwinter’s Tale and Shine, and doesn’t excel as either a comedy or a drama.” Cinephilia described Cosi as “a concatenation of caricatures in a predictable story of plucky determination and treacly redemption.”

In 1996, Cosi was the 3rd most popular Australian film at the Australian Box Office. As at 2010, Cosi ranked 71 on the list of Top 100 Australian feature films of all time as compiled by Screen Australia. Louis Nowra’s screenplay won the AFI Award in 1996, while “Cosi”s further nominations included Best Supporting Actor (Barry Otto) and Best Achievement in Editing. Due to the success of “Muriel’s Wedding”, Miramax promoted the film in the United States as well.