“Palm Beach” (M) ***
Q: IS it a drama? A comedy? A love story? A social analysis? A satire?
A: All of the above.
Q: And how does that eclectic mix work when it hits the screen?
A: With difficulty.
A: By trying to be all things to cast, crew and viewers, it hits no definable target.
Q: Will I like it?
A: If you approach it with no fixed expectations, probably, but when you leave its filmic cave, you’d be forgiven for asking yourself: “Why didn’t it give me something to take home and savour?”
And that’s kinda sad, because it’s clear that writer Joanna Murray-Smith invested a lot of love and energy in “Palm Beach”. And director Rachel Ward guided a stellar cast around NSW postcode 2018 to tell a series of stories centred on a pair of resident nouveau riches and the friends they’ve invited for a weekend to celebrate the 60th birthday of Frank (Bryan Brown).
Dining tables and picnic baskets groan with lavish tucker. Glasses get replenished with expensive fluids in anaesthetic quantities. The fun never ends. Except when expounding truths about who did what to whom with what outcome two decades ago and a cautionary note about going on the water in over-powered small boats before learning how to do it safely.
During a Q&A at the Sydney Film Festival several decades ago, the late actor Bill Hunter admonished the audience that it was their duty to support the Australian film industry which has grown in leaps and bounds since then. Bill didn’t distinguish between excellence and dross. “Palm Beach” sits between those two extremes. I’d like to think that Joanna and Rachel came to it with the best of creative intentions. But its hedonist message lacks subtlety, its characters lack consistency and their stories don’t do justice to the location (or vice versa).
At all cinemas