Oscar Movies: My Brilliant Career (1979)

In 1979, coming out of nowhere, the Australian film “My Brilliant Career” put on the movie map two vastly talented women: Actress Judy Davis and director Gillian Armstrong.

Armtstrong made a big splash on the international scene with this charming Australian film that examines late 19th century Australian society from the perspective of a young, stubborn woman who refuses to follow normative convention.

Based on the novel by Miles Franklin, who was only 16 at the time, adapted by Eleanor Whitcombe, the film charts the developing self-awareness of Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis) as she grows from an insecure tomboy to a self-assured and mature woman.

Sybylla wants to be a writer and stuns her family and friends by her insistence on following her dream. Her weak mother, not knowing how to change Sybylla’s ambition, sends her daughter off to live with her wealthy grandmother.

Her stay there, which makes her slightly more polished in manners, is interrupted when she is sent to tutor a poor outback family. In the end, despite family pressures, she rejects the marriage proposal from the rich Harry Beecham (Sam Neill) to continue going her own way, in spite of the odds stacked against her in a highly repressive Victorian context.

Both Judy Davis and Sam Neill became Hollywood stars after this picture. The acting of the entire ensemble, including Wendy Hughes as the Aunt, is superb.

Oscar Nominations: 1
Costume design: Anna Senior

Oscar Context:The Oscar winner was Anthony Powell for Polanski’s “Tess.”
Running time: 111 Minutes.
Directed By: Gillian Armstrong
Released: August 17, 1979.
DVD: May 31, 2005