Directed by Mat de Koning
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar


FEB 18 Dendy Cinemas – Newtown – NSW
FEB 16 Dendy Cinemas – Canberra – ACT
FEB 17 Dendy Cinemas – Coorparoo – QLD
FEB 23 Cinema Nova – Carlton – VIC

Mat de Koning fell in with a bunch of wannabe rockstars while at school in the Perth hills, and followed them around for the next decade, attempting to document their attempts at world domination as The Screwtop Detonators.

The result, a documentary that shows the band as they stumble through the good and the bad, ultimately fizzling out in apathy rather than any blaze of glory, is essential viewing for rockers around the world.

Could the band have ‘made it’ if they’d listened to their various managers and advisors? Maybe. But, in a story we’ve seen first hand many, many times, these were a bunch of mates who wanted to have a good time more than they wanted to make the essential sacrifices necessary to crack the big time.

Not that sacrifices weren’t made – poverty, careers, relationships and health all suffer as the film progresses – but eventually opportunities are missed, friendships become strained, and priorities change.

Meal Tickets could have been just another home movie of a bunch of misfits who went nowhere, but what raises it into the stratosphere is the easy friendship and unrestricted access de Koning had to the band and their entourage. In fact, it took de Koning 25 drafts before he was happy with the finished cut of the film – before he found the right balance to tell the truth of The Screwtop Detonators’ story, paint a picture of how dreams change with maturity (or, at least, with age), and still come out the other end with his friendships with the protagonists intact.

De Koning’s master-stroke is his early realisation of the potential of the parallel-not-parallel career of their early roadie Will Ferrier, aka Will Stoker. By following Stoker’s rise as The Detonators suffer setbacks, the rivalry and philosophical differences between the two acts shows the heights and lows of human emotion.

Stoker inhabits his alter-ego whole-heartedly at times – The Detonators refuse to even wear a jacket they aren’t comfortable in. Stoker hobnobs with artists and actors in Los Angeles, burning the candle at both ends – The Detonators just party at home, whether that be their Perth backyards or the Melbourne backpackers they shack up in while trying to crack the big time. Both attract and repel other characters into and out of the story like asteroids in a rock n’ roll universe.

The sheer humanity of Meal Tickets is what makes it such essential viewing, as it highlights how unlikely it is that a bunch of school mates who form a band can get the lucky breaks to take that band to fortune and fame, but even more, how unlikely it is that five friends can stay focussed on a shared dream unwaveringly for a decade of repeated disappointments.

In a perfect world the DVD release will have hours of extras (de Koning apparently shot over 700 hours over the ten years), and a double CD of the excellent soundtrack – fingers crossed that all the acclaim rightfully being heaped upon de Koning and his film will help that happen.


Filed Under: Movie & Theatre Reviews

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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