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Hotel Sorrento (Richard Franklin, 1995) wr. Richard Franklin, Peter Fitzpatrick, play Hannie Rayson, dp Geoff Burton; Joan Plowright, Caroline Goodall, Tara Morice, Caroline Gillmer, Ray Barrett, John Hargreaves, Nicholas Bell, Ben Thomas; AFI Best Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Barrett)
Both Return Home and Chez Nous feed into a film I regard rather critically, Richard Franklin’s adaptation of Hannie Rayson’s play Hotel Sorrento (1995). In this film, all the elements come together: the celebration of a gentle masculinity; women relating to each other and to a family home; and the plot device of a main character coming back from England to face her past and explore her cultural origin. Something about Hotel Sorrento has been said very well by commentators including Anna Maria Dell’Oso in The Sydney Morning Herald and Gabrielle Finnane in Filmnews. While this film pretends to be all about our national identity, it frames this question in a quite claustrophobic, narrow, Anglo-Australian way. There’s no trace of multicultural Australia, of Aboriginal Australia; instead, there’s immaculately British-sounding actors like Caroline Goodall and Joan Plowright striding around making pronouncements about the “soul of the landscape” and whatnot. And there’s a larger trace in Hotel Sorrento of a certain Helen Garner legacy, although I wouldn’t lay the blame for this on Garner herself. I’m speaking of a certain exclusive concentration, across a whole lot of Australian books, plays and films, on educated, middle-class, white Australians – and, inside that, a concentration on the emotional rather than the social or political lives of these characters.
Martin, Adrian 1995, review of Vacant Possession, filmcritic.com.au.
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