Swing and a Miss

Swing and a Miss

Review: Swinging Safari

(M) Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon, Asher Keddie

If you want to see a film that lacks substance and contains a mirage of crass behaviour as well as uninspired slapstick, all in a bid to be labelled as “Aussie culture”, then go watch Swinging Safari.

Any hope that this would be another Australian cult classic, from the director that gave us The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, are slowly dashed throughout the course of the film.

Swinging Safari is a satirical piece that shows what it was like growing up in Australia in the 70s— that is if you were living in white suburbia. In saying that, the film did have promise. The trailer had comedic flavour and the premise was intriguing. Not to mention the cast that included Aussie acting treasures, Guy Pearce, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon, Asher Keddie and Kylie Minogue. Yes, Swinging Safari had promise. It just misfired.

The film follows 14 year old budding film maker Jeff Marsh (Atticus Robb) and his first love Melly Jones (Darcey Wilson), through a summer fuelled with dare-devil stunts and accidentally uncovering their parents’ secrets amidst the 70s sexual revolution. Narrated by a now older Jeff, the film peers into the lives of three families and the one fateful ‘safari’ where their neighbourly friendships take a turn. There is also the appearance of a beached whale, whose rotting presence (like the rest of the film) brings one word to mind— queasy.

The film is a comment on just how much the kids were able to get away with and the remarkable fact that they survived with the laissez-faire parenting style. “Let them learn the hard way,” mutters Jo Jones (Radha Mitchell) every time she sees her sons making obvious bad decisions.  Still, it was uncomfortable watching the parents push 14 year old kids to sleep with each other.

The problem is that the film didn’t seem to commit to any storyline, even though there was a myriad of themes that could have been explored further. There was Melly, who at such a young age wanted to disappear for good and Jeff who wouldn’t let her fade away. Or even looking more at the complications of the actual ‘swinging safari’ among the neighbourhood parents. Instead, director Stephan Elliott tried to cram as much 70s nostalgia in 96 minutes at the cost of a well-developed story.

As for the all-star cast, they were mildly underused but at least Kylie Minogue stood out in her performance as the borderline alcoholic and anxiety prone wife of Guy Pearce. Then there was the debut of Atticus Robb, whose acting shone through as he played young Jeff. The young actor had poise and a talent that means this won’t be the last we see him on our screens.

For a comedy, the senseless mayhem failed to elicit hearty laughs that the director was hoping to get. Swinging Safari did have some charm, especially when showing the kids riding bikes to school with ice-cream tubs on their heads which is of course the perfect protection against swooping magpies. But there’s only so far nostalgia can take a film, no matter how many shots shown of lycra budgie smugglers, KFC buckets and baby oiled sun-baking.

The only consolation may be that it was probably a blast for the cast to film but for the audience watching the end product, it was less than enjoyable.

 

Melissa Stewart

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