Swinging Safari

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

Swinging Safari
dir-scr Stephan Elliott
prd Al Clark, Jamie Hilton
with Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon, Jeremy Sims, Asher Keddie, Atticus Robb, Darcey Wilson, Chelsea Glaw, Jesse Denyer, Jacob Elordi, Jack Thompson
narr Richard Roxburgh
release Aus 18.Jan.18,
UK Jun.18 eiff, US 21.Jun.19
18/Australia 1h37

minogue mitchell mcmahon

pearce, wilson, sims and more
There's plenty of Aussie colour in this lively comedy about three unabashed trashy families. Writer-director Stephan Elliott piles on the noisy craziness to tell a story that feels based on his childhood. The film is hilariously messy, worth seeing simply for the starry cast and some earthy emotionality gurgling underneath, although there's no angle to bring the audience into the story.
In the rambunctious summer of 1975 on the Gold Coast, teenage movie-lover Jeff (Wilson) is filming everything with his Super 8 camera, trying to make sense of the three crazy families on his street: the Halls (Pearce and Minogue), the Joneses (McMahon and Mitchell) and his own parents, the Marshes (Sims and Keddie). The kids play together boisterously, often risking life and limb, while their oblivious parents get up to their own drunken antics in the house. Meanwhile, everyone is distracted by the death of a huge whale on the beach.
Everything is played broadly for laughs, including the approach to sex. The garish clothing and home decor is meant to spark a smile, and the plot is punctuated with Jeff's inventive re-creations of violent Hollywood blockbusters. There are times when the collision of so many wacky elements feels a little oppressive, but Elliott knows when to pull back to allow the audience to catch breath before the next onslaught. Despite Jeff's wry narration (voiced by Roxburgh), there's no character who emerges as central.

The actors dive in, delivering amusing performances as adults and children who are fed up with their suburban lives. Scenes are crowded, so there isn't a standout in the cast, although Minogue more subtly catches the combination of boredom and terror in her housewife role. At the core of the story, Jeff is oddly bland, so his connection with Melly Jones (Wilson) never feels more than cute. Both young actors are fine, but their story feels undercooked, so their journey struggles to ring true to life.

The movie is packed with witty moments and offhanded lines of dialog that will elicit sudden guffaws of recognition. The more ridiculous things that happen (and there are quite a lot of those) have a clever grounding in reality, even if they might be exaggerated for comical effect. So there are serious things going on under the surface and in between the chaos. But the dead whale metaphor becomes somewhat corny as the film goes along, which leaves the whole thing feeling a little empty.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 15.Jun.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall