Can success make us happy?

Can success make us happy?

Review: Palm Beach
Starring: Brian Brown, Jacqueline McKenzie, Greta Scacchi, Sam Neill

When thinking of ‘grey cinema,’ it is hard to imagine that names like Bryan Brown, Sam Neil, Richard E. Grant and Greta Scacchi could be in the cast. The realities are that we are all getting older. 

Palm Beach is a film targeted to those who have moved into the retirement stage of life. Actress-turned-director Rachel Ward (Brown’s spouse) taps into the realities, fears and humour that comes along with the ageing process and the impact on friendships. Using the beauty of one of Australia’s premier landscapes as the perfect backdrop, this film looks to be the down under version of The Big Chill.

To celebrate his 73rd birthday, Frank (Brown) decides to surround himself with his friends from the past by getting the band back together. Pacific Sideburns is a band that had some marginal success with their one hit, Fearless. The friends live in various parts of the world and have come together to celebrate the bonds that continue to bring this group together.

Frank and his long-suffering wife, Charlotte (Scacchi), pull out all of the stops for this much loved, but odd bunch. Firstly, by generously flying in Billy (Grant), who is a jingle writer, married to the ageing starlet, Eva (Heather Mitchell). Also invited is the accomplished journalist Leo (Neill) and his family, who carries a secret with him that may disrupt the whole weekend. Things do not take too long before their personal histories, tragedies and successes begin to collide into a relational quagmire. Each conversation leads to a mix of open wounds from a long-hidden past, leading to the random belly laugh and tears that can only be comforted by those closest to you.

Despite an anaemic and predictable screenplay, the strength of the acting talent and the believable relational chemistry of the characters makes this an entertaining option for mature audiences. With an ensemble cast of this magnitude, it would be easy for some of the talents to get lost in the shuffle. Fortunately,  Ward manages to balance the storyline to include and show the value of each cast member.

Even though the story plays out in an earthly paradise, the script does prove that wealth and success are no markers for happiness. As each emotional layer gets pulled back within this ensemble cast, the realities of friendship, family and unmet expectations begin to expose the primal needs of each person. Proving that no amount of money or wine can make up for the pains of life, but showing the need for the human touch. 

Palm Beach is a film for those in the later stages of life and shows us all that there is still more life to be lived during this existence on earth. 

Who can you turn to when life seems to be out of control?  

What do we do when life seems to be falling apart around us? Ageing, careers, family and community issues are out of our control in many ways. Companies fail, people make bad choices and sometimes circumstances cannot be avoided. How does God help us during these times? The Bible offers answers to these questions. Not with the elimination of difficulties and strife, but by providing the peace and solace that can only come through a relationship with God.  

Russ Matthews


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