(director/writer: Rachel Ward; screenwriter: Joanna Murray-Smith; cinematographer: Bonnie Elliott; editor: Nick Myers; music: The Teskey Brothers; cast: Bryan Brown (Frank), Greta Scacchi (Charlotte), Richard E. Grant (Billy), Sam Neill (Leo), Heather Mitchell (Eva), Aaron Jeffery (Doug), Jacqueline McKenzie (Bridget), Charlie Vickers (Dan), Frances Berry (Caitlyn), Claire van der Boom (Holly), Matilda Brown (Ella), Felix Williamson (Taxi Driver), Ryan Bown (Autograph Man); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Deborah Balderstone, Bryan Brown; New Town Films; 2019-Australia)
“It’s the kind of dramedy that implies that money can buy us happiness but not necessarily a good film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It played opening night at the Sydney Film Festival.
The English-born actress-turned-director Rachel Ward (“Beautiful Kate “) helms this genial but tedious comedy that fails to generate interest despite an all-star cast doing a fine job of yukking it up. It’s limply co-written by Ward and Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.
It tells of a gathering of old friends and family who reunite for a fun weekend in the sun of the Palm Beach suburb in northern Sydney to celebrate the 73rd birthday of Frank (Bryan Brown, real life husband of the director). The demographic targeted are the seniors.
Frank and Charlotte (Greta Scacchi) are a long-time married couple, whose luxury home sits atop a hill in the beautiful Sydney peninsula of Palm Beach. The prominent guests include longtime couples Leo (Sam Neill) and Bridget (Jacqueline McKenzie), as well as the failed advertising man Billy (Richard E. Grant) and his aging actress wife Eva (Heather Mitchell). The men are from the fictional band the Pacific Sideburns, who are remembered for their modest hit in 1977 called “Fearless”(a song written for the film by James Reyne, former frontman for Australian Crawl). The control freak Frank was the manager and the only one in the group to achieve vast financial success.
The guests are lavishly treated to Dom Perignon in ice buckets and served rich spreads that were prepared by the caring Charlotte. They do such things as surf, yoga, build a pizza oven, have loud sex and jog along the beach. Under a full moon and during brilliant sunshine they talk over old times and even find minor things to quarrel about.
The family part of the guest list include: the couple’s kids, doctor Ella (Ward and Brown’s own daughter Matilda) and the aimless university dropout Dan (Charlie Vickers), as well as Holly (Claire van der Boom), Frank’s adult daughter from a previous relationship.
The cinematography beautifully captures the stunning location, for a film that could have easily served as a tourist board advertisement for Palm Beach. It should be noted that destination NSW — a tourism body run by the government — co-financed the film.
In one shot like a home movie, Born to Be Wild blasts on the soundtrack while a dog wags his tail.
It’s the kind of dramedy that implies that money can buy us happiness but not necessarily a good film.
REVIEWED ON 1/22/2020 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/