The Aussie Film Database

Hotel Sorrento

Richard Franklin

Film Credits

DIRECTOR: Richard Franklin
SCRIPTWRITER: Peter Fitzpatrick
PRODUCER: Richard Franklin
Helen Watts (co. Producer)
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Beyond Films/ Horizon Films/ Australia Film/ Bayside Pictures
CAST: Caroline Goodall - Meg Moynihan
Caroline Gillmer - Hillary Moynihan
Tara Morice - Pippa Moynihan
Joan Plowright - Marge Morrisey
Ray Barrett - Wal Moynihan
Nicholas Bell - Edwin
Ben Thomas - Troy Moynihan
John Hargraves - Dick Bennett

US: 14th July 1995
UK: 7th June 1996

USA: Gross figure - $91,170



The past of three sisters is brought to the surface when one of them, Meg, writes as fictio nal book, basing the characters on her sisters and certain events of their past. They are reunited when Meg, who lives in London and Pippa, a business woman in New York, return to their family home where their widowed sister, Hillary, lives with her son and father in an Australian coastal town called Sorrento. Meg‚s book and the death of their father become a catalyst for questions to be asked about the loyalty of each sister to the other. It provokes questions to be asked by Hillary‚s son, Troy, over the circumstances of his father's death. Tragedy strikes the sister when their father dies and then the taboo subject of Hillary‚s husband is bought out in the open. The sisters role in this are slowly developed. While this family conflict is occurring, outside parties question the validity of statements made by Meg, in socio-political abstract arguments that she has with her family and their Neighbours -Marge and Dick. The film was slow in parts due to these lengthy discussions. There was too much of the film space used on these discussions. More time would spent developing the mystery over circumstances of Hillary‚s Husband‚s death would have quickened the pace and added more interest to the film. This keeps the audience interested in the film. The film was well made and had an interesting story line with many faces of the sister's life and beliefs represented, but there may have been too many. It‚s main storyline of the mystery over Hillary‚s Husband‚s death is clear to the audience. Some aspects of it were a little confusing when not enough information was presented about what was going in the main frame of the story.


The film was received fairly well at the time of its release. It received fair reviews that s aid the film was well made and was a pleasant little story. However, the reviews did point out that the transition from play to film had not been as good as it could have been. There were certain elements that the film, lacked. In James Berardinelli‚s review of the film he points out that the film‚s „dialogue goes for longer than it should.š (Berardinelli, 1995). There were many elements of the film that worked as a play, but they were lost when it became a film. Tom O‚Regan, in his book Australian National cinema, comments on this problem. He notes that in Adrian Martin‚s article `Nurturing the Next wave: What is Cinema?‚ he „claimed that Franklin‚s Hotel Sorrento (1995) was flawed in this regard - keeping too close to the stage play on which it was based.š (O‚Regan, 1996,p206). The film was well receiv ed by Australian critics. It received many nominations in the AFI awards in all categories i t was eligible. It won two awards - The Orlando Trilogy Awards for the Best Screenplay, and Best Performance by an actor in a supporting role, which Ray Barrett won. At the p resent the film has all but slipped into obscurity. It has found a place in video shops in the $3 weekly section where it sits and gathers dust. Although it has been classed as a quality Australian film.


Hotel Sorrento was a co-production with the UK. This would mean that funds would have come from both the UK and Australia. The success of the film overseas is not documented very well. In the US it received $91,170 in the box office. The small amount made would have a lot to do with the distribution of the film around the country and the amount of cinema‚s it would have been shown in. It is an arthouse film so would not have been embraced as favourably by a mainstream audience. A lot of people would have found it a bit hard to follow. As far as box office success in Australia and UK and the rest of the world there was no information to be found.


Hotel Sorrento for many people of the cast and crew was a step up from past projects, as far as success and quality of the film went. For the director, Richard Franklin, it was the first film he had made in Australia for a long time. The most apparent films he made were in the late 70‚s and early 80‚s. Probably his most well known film was Road Games (1981), which was about a person who picks up a hitch hiker who happens to be a mass murderer. Other earlier films made were Fantasm (1976), which he made under the name if Richard Bruce and was about women of the 70‚s sexual fantasy‚s. He also made Patrick (1978) where a man, Patrick was in a coma for 3 years after murdering his mother and her lover by electrocution. Earlier than these films he made The Story Of Eskimo Nell (1975) which told the story of two men who travel through the Australian Goldfields in search of Eskimo Nell - their perfect woman. It was noted that Richard Franklin had to return from Hollywood, where he made films such as FX2 and Psycho 2, to make the film. Hotel Sorrento was a change in film compared to the genre‚s of his past films. For the cinematographer, Geoff Burton, it was a different story. He is a very prominent and prolific cinematographer working on films such as Dead Calm (1998), Flirting (1991), Frauds (1994), Sirens (1994), The Sum of Us (1994 and Storm Boy (1976). Hotel Sorrento would be one among the better films that he has made but he has made so many good films that it would not be a stand out film. The Producer, Helen Watts has not had much experience as being a producer. The only film found with her credited as the producer, besides Hotel Sorrento was The Umbrella Woman (1987) where she was the associate producer. The only other film that she was found to be associated with was The Last of Knuckle Man (1979) in which she had a minor acting role.

For the actors involved most of them are prominent Australian and English Actors. Caroline Goodall had a major role in The Silver Brumby (1993). Caroline Gillmer had roles in Evil Angles, Mathew and Son (1984), and Fighting Back (1983). Tara Morice is probably most well known for her role in Strictly Ballroom (1992). This being her first major role led her to be in Hotel Sorrento and then later Metal Skin (1995). The actor Ray Barret has had many roles in Australian films over the last 20 years. He has starred in films such as Sundowners (1960), Don‚s Party (1976), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978) Goodbye Paradise (1983) and Dad and Dave On Our Selection (1995). He is a prominent actor that is adds a typical recognisable Australian character to a film. He has the typecast roll of being a typical Aussie battler and gives the film an authentic Australian fell to it.


The value of a film, as pointed out by Tom O‚Regan in his book „Australian National Cinemaš, has been measured in the past by it‚s commercial or cultural place it has in the film world. If a film has a large cultural value, it is seen to be art house and tending to move away from Hollywood. Commercial films are Hollywood type films - made to make money. Hotel Sorrento could be seen by some to move closer toward the cultural category. It has a more European style, where tragedy and disaster are not sensationalised while psychological issues that are introduced in the film are at the forefront of the film‚s plot. Although the film does not always employ cultural methods in the making of it. To the Australian and possibly the British audience the film has employed well actors to play the parts. For example, Tara Morice, who was made famous in Strictly Ballroom, Ray Barrett, who has appeared in many Australian films and Caroline Gillmer who is a recognisable actor in both the UK and Australia. The cinematographer is also one of the better known cinematographers in Australia. These people are highly recognisable in Australia and to Australians, the inclusion of these actors could be seen as a step towards commercialism. If this aspect of films distinguishes as being either a commercial or cultural film you would have revalue all films looking at the credibility of the Actors and the success of their former films. To Americans and other countries, these cast and crew members would not be seen as being big stars. Because of this the value of the film is more cultural.

The position of Australian cinema in the world could be compared with the position that Hotel Sorrento has. Overseas, films that are understood to be Australian are seen to have a cultural value. There is a large proportion of films that are not seen as being Australian, but are, that have a large commercial value to them. Australian film is slowly moving towards a commercial market. This is made obvious through the continued defection of Australian directors from arthouse Australian films to preference to Hollywood Blockbusters, as pointed out by Tom O‚Regan. With the success of their Australian film the appearance of large budgets entices them away from making another Arthouse film in preference to making films with a large commercial value and largely American. Directors that have done this include Jane Campion who after the success of her film The Piano went onto make the American classic Portrait of a Lady, Peter Wier, Phil Noyce, Bruce Beresford and Gillian Armstrong. Hotel Sorrento‚s director Richard Franklin, is also one of these directors that have based themselves in America. The film has qualities of being both commercial and cultural, just like may Australian films.

The cultural Australian films to some have been classed as being `mundane‚(Australian National Cinema p141). Hotel Sorrento, in some aspects could be seen as being a `mundane‚ film. Tom O‚Regan explains that a film with a mundane element `is popular, aesthetically unexciting, even banal film, which although popular with domestic and international audiences do not seem especially meritorious and often a critical embarrassment.‚ (Australian National Cinema page 141.) Hotel Sorrento could be seen as being aesthetically unexciting and banal. This is due to the lack of action happening and its slow pace.


Australian cinema, being a medium sized English language cinema, has many consequences. There are several aspects of medium sized English Language cinema that is represented through Hotel Sorrento. Being medium sized, import of films and of foreign people is prominent. This has caused influence from the major film industry such as Hollywood. Franklin, the director supports the US influence. „He argued that Australia was close to America culturally and that our film should acknowledge this, as too often they failed too. Instead they focused on the differences.š (O‚Regan, 1996, p101). Franklin does not try to hide the American aspects of the film. One of the characters, Pippa, has been working in the film and comes back to Australia to Americanise Australia a little bit more by setting up a sandwich Franchise with American style sandwiches. He prominently shows the effect that living in America has had on Pippa. Her accent is normal when she talks to her family but when someone from America rings up she puts on an American accent.

Medium English Language Cinema also means that it has a minor place in international trade. Because of the large amount of competition to try and get a bigger place in the international trade it forces film makers and actors to be better in the minor English Language Cinema‚s. The films use successful big names to carry off the film and get success overseas. Hotel Sorrento has used acclaimed actors and film makers in order to make a quality film. The story comes from a well-known stage play. Richard Franklin worked on several well-known Hollywood films such as FX2 and Psycho II. For Franklin to be known for these films in the US would help the promotion of Hotel Sorrento. There are several of the actors that are very credible and known for their good work such as Joan Plowright and Ray Barrett. The Cinematographer, Geoff Burton has worked on numerous films that have been successful overseas. His credibility would also add to the credibility of Hotel Sorrento. The medium size of the cinema means that there is a lack of funds. This causes there to be associations and collaborations with other medium sized cinema networks around the world. Hotel Sorrento is a co-production with the UK.


MURRAY, Scott: Returning Home, „Cinema Pš/104, June 95;P24 - 27, 57 illus.
- Interview with Richard Franklin

GROVES, D: Prodigal Helmer returns, Checks into `Sorrento‚, still VARIETY 356:157 October 3/9 1994
HOPGOOD, F: Hotel Sorrento, „Cinema Pš/104, June 1995, P50-51, illus
STRATTEN, David:šHotel Sorrentoš, VARIETY CCCLVIII/12, April24,95, p54, illus
WILLIAMSON, Kim: Hotel Sorrento, Box office Movie Review Search,
BERARDINELLI, James: Hotel Sorrento,, 1995
O‚REGAN, Tom: Australian National Cinema, Routledge, London, 1996, (page 206)

Presence online and in the literature


There were only a few sites that had information on Hotel Sorrento. One of these sites was in the INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE - This is an American based site with American information on Release dates, box office, certification (R), and Runtime. It also has a UK site that shows basically the same information. Other sites include the CINEMEDIA ACCESS COLLECTION. This is a Victorian film site that includes a summary of the plot, the cast, Year of Production, Country of Origin, Australian Rating, (M), Production Company, Producer and the Director. This was accessed through the Australian Cinema web site. Other search engines such as YAHOO and THE SCREEN SITE also had some information on the film. There were mentions of the film in several essays such as `Beyond 'Australian film'? Australian cinema in the 1990s‚ by Tom O‚Reagan. This was on the Essays site that can be accessed through the Australian film site. This essay had only a little information on the Film, mentioning it in regard to the sister relationship and the attitude of expatriates. There was not a lot of other evidence of the film. Some of the Film magazine sites either could not be accessed or they had no knowledge of the film, or they all had the same information about the film.


The first place I started was searching the internet starting in Kali and then the Oz Film sites searching through the various search engines that it links to. A lot of the search links could not be accessed due to complications with the links. The first search sites I accessed were places such as THE WEB: ALTAVISTA that came up with a lot of Hotels in Sorrento, in Italy and a few hotels in America as well. Some other places that I accessed was EXCITE, YAHOO, and the FILM INTERNET DATABASE, and the SCREEN SITE, CINEMEDIA. These sites gave a little information on other sites but they all showed the same sites. A few of these sites were found through going through the Australian Cinema site in the section of researching a classic film.

Other sites were found by going through the links page on the Australian film site.

The next place I went to find information about the Film was to the Library and searched in the Film Literature Index and the International film Periodicals. These two books had the list of reviews of the film and interviews with the director, Richard Franklin. I could not find these articles though as the `Cinema Papers‚ and the `Variety‚ yearbook were both missing for the year that I needed, 1995. I then used the CD ROM in the library that had an Australian Film Index and I was able to access the Information about the film - such as credits, cast crew, producer , director etc. This also had information on other films done by the director, producer, cast and cinematographer. It showed all the information about the films and also the essays and articles where these people are mentioned in.

html author: Rebecca Hunt
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