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Story

The Efficiency Expert (released in theaters as Spotswood), a warm-hearted, wacky comedy with a social conscience, takes place in Australia in the "Swinging '60s," and its character, substance, music, and design are so authentic one nearly forgets that it was made in 1991. Sir Anthony Hopkins is wonderful as Errol Wallace, the efficiency expert of the title, who devises painful belt-tightening measures for struggling companies. Wallace is hired to modernize the dotty, antiquated Ball Moccasin Factory, and he's stunned at the impossibility of the task. The cutting room resembles a workshop full of Santa's elves; the men literally dance jigs while they work. Still, Wallace takes the bull by the horns and deputizes a young man, Carey (the winning Ben Mendelsohn), to help him downsize the factory. It's like trying to disband a tribe; many of the employees have been there for 30 years; romances blossom there. Homely Wendy (Toni Colette, of Muriel's Wedding and The Sixth Sense) loves Ben, but he lusts after tarty Cheryl (Rebecca Rigg), whose nasty shark of a boyfriend, Kim, is played by a young Russell Crowe. Wallace thinks he's teaching these factory workers how business works, but it's he who learns a lesson. "Work isn't just about money," declares old Mr. Ball, the factory's owner (the exceedingly touching Alwyn Kurts). "It's about dignity, about treating people with respect. People need to make things." The movie's message has timeless resonance, as job security and pride in manufacturing vanishes from large industrialized nations. --Laura Mirsky

Cast

Anthony HopkinsErrol Wallace
Ben MendelsohnCarey
Rebecca RiggCheryl Ball
Toni ColletteWendy Robinson
Russell CroweKim Barry

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