Monkey Grip (film)

Monkey Grip is a 1982 Australian drama film directed by Ken Cameron. It is based on the novel, also titled Monkey Grip (1977), by Helen Garner.[2] It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[3] The film was produced by Patricia Lovell and stars Noni Hazelhurst and Colin Friels.

Monkey Grip
Directed byKen Cameron
Produced byDanny Collins
Treisha Ghent
Patricia Lovell
Written byKen Cameron
Helen Garner
StarringNoni Hazlehurst
Music byBruce Smeaton
CinematographyDavid Gribble
Edited byDavid Huggett
Distributed byRoadshow
Release date
  • 17 June 1982 (1982-06-17)
Running time
99 minutes
BudgetA$1 million[1]
Box officeA$450,000


Nora, a single-mother in her thirties living in Melbourne is engaged in an on-again off-again relationship with the heroin addict Javo, who can never quite decide whether he wants his freedom, or romantic commitment. The further their relationship progresses, the harder they find it to let go.


  • Noni Hazlehurst as Nora
  • Colin Friels as Javo
  • Alice Garner as Gracie
  • Harold Hopkins as Willie
  • Candy Raymond as Lillian
  • Michael Caton as Clive
  • Tim Burns as Martin
  • Christina Amphlett as Angela
  • Don Miller-Robinson as Gerald
  • Lisa Peers as Rita
  • Cathy Downes as Eve
  • Justin Ridley as Roaster
  • Pearl Christie as Juliet
  • Vera Plevnik as Jessie
  • Jamie Fonti as Ramondo


Ken Cameron tried to get up a film version of Helen Garner's novel in early 1979 but could not raise the budget of $553,000.[4] Shooting was postponed until Patricia Lovell managed to get the money under 10BA tax regulations. However, by then costs had risen so much the film had to be made for $1 million. The film was shot in early 1981.[1] The story is set in Melbourne but only one week of filming took place there, with Sydney standing in for the location. The Fitzroy Pool was recreated in Sydney's Ryde pool. The iconic Deep Water Aqua Profonda sign, at the Fitzroy public swimming pool, was economically reused as the album cover in the film.

Box office

Monkey Grip grossed $451,000 at the box office in Australia,[5] which is equivalent to $1,312,410 in 2009 dollars. However it struggled to find distribution overseas.[1]


The film received mixed reviews. Helen Garner, who wrote the novel upon which the film was based, had a problem with the casting of Colin Friels as a heroin addict. She stated: "I just can't believe they cast Colin Friels as the junkie. That was such a terrible mistake. He was so healthy, a great big bouncing muscly surfing guy".[6]


  1. David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p139-141
  2. Maslin, Janet. "NY Times: Monkey Grip". NY Times. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Monkey Grip". Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  4. Rod Bishop & Peter Beilby, "Ken Cameron", Cinema Papers, March–April 1979 p 259
  5. Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  6. Wilmoth, Peter (15 June 2008). "Bach to the future". Sydney Morning Hearld. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
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