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Friday Film Review: Paperback Hero

Paperback Hero (1999)
Genre: Romance
Grade: B

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As I began pawing through my many, many tapes, I saw this one – Paperback Hero – which I was fortunate enough to buy years ago. Why fortunate? Because the bloody thing doesn’t appear to be available any more. There are a lot of older movies, and not so older movies, that I am amazed have not been released on DVD yet. This is one of them.

Jack Willis is a roadtrain driver (long haul driver for us in the US). During his trips, he’s written a romance novel which has unexpectedly become a best seller in Australia. Now his publicist has shown up in Lucktown looking for him. Only problem is she thinks his name is Ruby Vale.

The real Ruby Vale, is a friend of Jack’s and he sort of “borrowed” her name because no “man’s man” in Australia would write a romance novel. Jack has to act quickly to get Ruby to go along with the charade which includes a publicity stint in Sydney. The only reason she agrees is that the publisher has agreed to pay the expenses for her wedding to local veterinarian, Hamish.

But as the two travel to Sydney and begin the public engagements, Ruby finds herself looking at Jack in a whole new light. Will she still marry Hamish when the truth comes out? Or does Jack have a chance with the girl he’s secretly loved all along?

I’ll be honest and say that this is another “feel good” type romance. It’s a chick flick all the way. But when I get the chance to watch Hugh Jackman for an entire movie, flick away, baby. It’s also got Claudia Karvan, who really ought to be better known in the US, playing Ruby.

Jackman and Karvan project great chemistry. They’re mates as well as, in the end, lovers. She obviously feels something for him from the beginning or why else would she agree to the trouble and hassle of pretending to be the writer “Ruby Vale” to help Jack out? And Jack, while acting as just a friend, does everything he can to try and ensure that Ruby gets what he thinks she wants in life.

The secondary cast are fabulous. No one comes off as a “character” just for form’s sake but rather as people who will go the mile for each other. I’m afraid I only recognized Jeanie Drynan who played Muriel’s mother in “Muriel’s Wedding,” but I wish I knew more of them. They all do a great job.

I laughed as poor Jack pretends he didn’t write this “girly, schmaltzy stuff” – which turns out to be anything but, as we see during scenes in which Ruby is reading the book on the road to Sydney. It’s also nice to see these two as friends who can kid and joke with each other – as Ruby does when she teases Jack about how he writes the sex scenes in the book. Their karaoke scene is hilarious. Given what’s been said about how Jack hates to fly, his declaration of love to Ruby is funny and touching. I also like that Hamish isn’t turned into a villain in order to break up the engagement. He’s a nice guy who just isn’t right for Ruby.

The Aussie accents are easily understandable and the views of Queensland are amazingly beautiful and I wish this film were more widely available. No, it’s not cinema at its finest, but it’s a fun film which leaves me with a smile on my face.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Edie
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 05:12:10

    It is on DVD in Oz, though that wouldn’t help you unless you have a multi-region player?
    Must admit to not seeing the actual movie.

  2. DS
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 05:32:46

    Edie thanks for this information. I have a region free DVD player and a multistandard TV just for these occasions. I was rather taken by Jayne’s description of this movie and trying to figure out how to get a copy.

  3. MJ
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 06:01:01

    I managed to find it on DVD in the US. I LOVE this movie. Just love it.

  4. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 06:12:31

    Nah, I don’t have a multiregion player and am afraid to tinker with mine to try and make it one. I loathe this region crap for DVDs. Manufacturers should put the damn things out in a format anyone can watch throughout the world.

  5. Edie
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 06:30:32

    You are welcome DS, drop me an email if you have trouble locating it, but I am pretty sure most of our bigger chains ship international.

    Jayne, just thought I would mention it, it is pretty simple in Australia with our players to make them play multi-formats, thought it may be similar for you.. booger that it is not.

  6. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 06:37:42

    Jayne, just thought I would mention it, it is pretty simple in Australia with our players to make them play multi-formats, thought it may be similar for you.. booger that it is not.

    Someone mentioned changing DVD players to make them multiregion in (I think) a previous film review so I looked it up then. I couldn’t find the “code” needed for my older DVD player and also started reading horror stories of people who had wrecked theirs so that they didn’t play anymore or the region got permanently changed to a region other than the one they had most of their DVD collection format in or – and here’s the best – the onscreen directions were changed to cyrillic characters because the player was manufactured in Russia.

    There are a couple of region 2 and 4 DVDs I’d love to buy but it’s just not worth it to me to risk my players.

  7. Fae Sutherland
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 07:05:16

    Oh man! I love this movie! I saw it years ago in 2001 when an Aussie friend sent me a copy of the VHS. Sadly, the tape didn’t last and I’ve never been able to find another copy.

    Another fabulous Hugh movie, if you can find it, is Erskineville Kings. It’s very dark, very gritty and slow-paced, but absolutely beautiful. It’s hands down my favorite Hugh Jackman movie.

  8. Leeann Burke
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 07:46:41

    I also got my hands on a copy of the movie when RWA Nationals showed clips of it during the RITAs a few years ago. I had a hard time getting a copy and a harder time playing the darn thing, but my computer came to the rescue and I was able to droole ehm I mean watch the movie. LOL.

    Great review Jayne!

  9. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 08:14:27

    This movie is adorable. I managed to snag a copy when I was in New Zealand. Brought it home to much squealing from my girlfriends.

  10. Diana Peterfreund
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 08:59:41

    I have been dying to see this film. I wish they’d make it available here. I wonder if Leslie Kelly has a copy. She does love all things Hugh.

  11. Kathryn Smith
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 09:52:45

    I too have been wanting to see this movie for years. Thanks for the review, but now I just want to see it all the more!

  12. Lynn M
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 10:14:09

    Great review – problem is, now I want to see this, but it looks to near impossible to find. Closest I found was a VHS ‘collector’s’ copy on Amazon for $95! Anyone know who we should petition to get it re-released on DVD – in all regional formats?

  13. reader
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 10:34:36

    They’re selling it on the UK amazon and play for around £5, so if you’ve got a multi-region player you should be able to watch. And I’ve seen it on fleabay and various Oz based sites. You can usually hack most players using the remote code to make them multi-region. There are some you can’t though. Also you can probably watching it on your computer if you use vlc media player which ignores region coding.

    Failing that I’ve noticed that it may possibly be on youtube… which I might possibly be watching…

  14. Kat
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 11:09:03

    I’d almost forgotten about this film! I love Claudia Karvan’s natural style. I was addicted to the early seasons of The Secret Life of Us (Aussie TV series *plugcoughplug*) and the unresolved tension between her and Samuel Johnson. I love Samuel Johnson, too. Hugh Jackman goes without saying.

  15. Likari (LindaR)
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:18:56

    Aw, man! I want to see this so bad!!

    And you know something? This is a great review — crisply-written and enticing without spoiling, full of interesting detail and additional info.

    Well done!

  16. Sami
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 00:31:35

    It's also got Claudia Karvan, who really ought to be better known in the US, playing Ruby.

    I believe she had a part in one of the Star Wars movies, forget which one, starring as Natalie Portman’s sister. Alas, they dropped all the sister scenes in the editing process, cutting Claudia from the movie entirely. I love Claudia, and as an actor that must really suck!

    Thanks for the review, I love this one too. A real girly guilty pleasure–although I never feel guilty about such things. Hugh is toasted marshmallow on a stick, sigh.

  17. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 06:48:24

    For Claudia, that must suck. To get a part in such a highly anticipated movie then to be totally cut out, sucksville. And Hugh is the bomb of cuteness in this film.

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