Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Australia 2019
Directed by
Rachel Ward
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Palm Beach (2019)

Synopsis: A couple of old band-mates, Leo and Billy (Sam Neil and Richard E. Grant), and their wives gather at the home of their former manager Frank (Bryan Brown) in the swanky suburb of Palm Beach, NSW, just north of Sydney.

The best thing you can say about Rachel Ward’s lightweight seniors’ comedy is that its target audience will enjoy the performances of some of Australia’s screen veterans (who are their own contemporaries) but in every other respect forbearance is required. The bulk of the indulgence goes to Ward and Joanna Murray-Smith’s toothless script but Ward’s routine directing does nothing to offset its lack of rigour.

An etiolated descendant of The Big Chill (1983) Palm Beach takes it as a template and strains to give a real-life tragi-comic sheen. The trouble with the result is that it is completely unconvincing.

In order to justify the film’s seductive lifestyle appeal Frank is made a now-successful entrepreneur so well-off he can fly Billy and his wife (Heather Mitchell) from England business class and has a cruiser to ferry his friends from Sydney (cue obligatory overheads of Harbour Bridge) to his beachside Home Beautiful where his wife Charlotte (Greta Scacchi) keeps a gorgeous-looking board single-handedly. This would be all very well in a glossy promo for the NSW Tourism Board or an upmarket retirement village but it is completely incongruous in a story about the superannuated members of a pop group of yesteryear. This lack of credibility is well-evidenced by the use of The Easybeats’ classic ‘Friday on My Mind’ to underscore the film’s opening.  Are we talking soft rock one-hit-wonders here or icons of Australian music?.  Arriving at Frank’s house the gang break into a spontaneous rendition of the Troggs “Wild Thing”. Really?  I don’t think so.  In fact as an excruciatingly awkward  picnic scene confirms if any of these people know how to play an instrument then I’m Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ward and her husband Brown are eminence grises of the Australian film industry but someone should have pointed out to Ward that incontinence pads and dry vaginas were never going to get a laugh. And when it comes to tragedy the film is equally half-hearted. A change of mood might have gone a long way to correct the forced jollity largely signified by all the silly hats. Instead, keeping to the supposedly feel-good tenor of the film when it approaches the darker side of life it quickly and facilely backs off.

I was quite taken with Ward’s 2009 feature debut Beautiful Kate but it seems that her interim jobbing for the small screen as a director since then has lowered the bar of her expectations.  Palm Beach should have been a lot better than it is.  

FYI: The once hippie mecca of the Sydney northern beaches was the locus of Albie Thoms' low budget 1978 indie film Palm Beach. Two better Australian “reunion” films are Richard Franklin’s Hotel Sorrento (1995) and Rachel Perkins’ Radiance (1998).




Want something different?

random vintage best worst