Australasian Cinema > films > Swinging Safari
Swinging Safari (Stephan Elliott, 2018) aka Flammable Children; wr. Stephan Elliott, prod. Jamie Hilton, pd Colin Gibson, costume Lizzy Gardiner, music Guy Gross, ed. Sue Blainey; Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Jeremy Sims, Julian MacMahon, Asher Keddie; set in Dee Why, 1975, satire; released 18Jan
Synopsis: 1970s Australia: A 200-ton blue whale washes up on a local beach and the kids think it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened in their lives. Behind closed doors, the Mums and Dads of this quiet suburban cul-de-sac celebrate in their own special way, by joining the sexual revolution. It’s a time of boxed wine, bad hair, bad styles, bad choices, but good times. And like the rotting whale, it’s all about to go spectacularly wrong.
In any else’s hands this would have been a farce and a satire. It’s about wife-swapping in a past recent enough for many people to remember with amusement rather than nostalgia. Bringing Guy Pearce (now a superb, mature actor) back together with Kylie Minogue could have caused a great wave of fun – and affection – to wash over cinemas. But it didn’t happen. The characters are all kept at a distance in Elliott’s unempathetic museum.
It tries to be comic, and repeatedly misses the mark. Whereas in Welcome to Woop Woop, the hyperbole just becomes weird, in this we should be in the realm of satire, but Elliott doesn’t have the ability to maintain the charitable malice required for that.
Australians will appreciate Swinging Safari’s ability to simultaneously celebrate and denigrate, encouraged to laugh at themselves: the cinema of They’re a Weird Mob, without the antipodean perspective, or any semblance of civility.
International audiences will watch on, presumably in morbid fascination – as if they were, indeed, privy to some kind of urban safari, populated by very strange specimen[s].
Is this outrageous comedy sexy or revolting? Elliott proves – though this feels like the least of his achievements – that a film can be both. Luke Buckmaster.
Garry Gillard | New: 17 July, 2018 | Now: 7 June, 2019