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PALM BEACH

SYNOPSIS:
Lifelong friends reunite for a party to celebrate Frank's (Bryan Brown) birthday at his Palm Beach home.

Review by Louise Keller:
On a spectacular backdrop of the glittering waters of Palm Beach amid lashings of Champagne, scrumptious food and backslapping camaraderie, the film is an amiable destination with a likeable cast of Aussie favourites. Rachel Ward's film is exactly what you expect: a good-hearted get-together of old friends and family when resentments flair, flailing relationships are revealed and secrets demand to be heard. But it aches for some grit. It is not fearless, as the song title of the former rockband's one hit (written by James Reyne) suggests. Although that may not matter to some audiences. The film travels on safe territory. The plot points are predictable and relationships have never been so easily resolved.

Swagger, the name of the boat on which the gathered group cruises on the waterways, is perhaps more apt. To the point, Bryan Brown's Frank, who lives in a drop-dead gorgeous pad in Palm Beach has no shortage of anything. (Frank was the band's manager, who is the only one to have become financially successful.) There's Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot and Cloudy Bay in the ice bucket to accompany the lavish spreads, prepared by Frank's caring wife Charlotte (Greta Scacchi). Frank's birthday is the catalyst that brings the group together and everything appears to be perfect; even the dog wags its tail in time with the music (The Wild Thing).

They surf, do yoga, build a pizza oven, quarrel, have noisy sex, run along the beach, enjoy a picnic and reminisce about many things. All under a full moon, brilliant sunshine, in shimmering waters and under a rainbow of fireworks. Meanwhile, personal crises come to the fore.

The entire cast is excellent and everyone looks as though they are having a wonderful time. Ward captures this happy camaraderie beautifully; in many ways we feel as though we are peeking into a get together of close friends who are lapping up the spoils. Sam Neill excels as Leo, while Brown plays the predictable cantankerous, obstinate control freak host. Scacchi is warm; Richard E. Grant is amusing as the failed advertising man; Heather Mitchell engaging as the ageing actress; Jacqueline McKenzie is always good - she has one good scene here with Neill, when her character is allowed to blossom.

The soundtrack is super busy with some of the tunes at odds with their placement. With its stunning cinematography and beautiful locations, the film could be an advertisement for Palm Beach and its surrounds. Kangaroos, cockatoos, margaritas, floating candles and a tide that washes over the sand in designer fashion are the eye candy. Who said money can't buy happiness?

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PALM BEACH (M)
(Aus, 2019)

CAST: Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline McKenzie, Heather Mitchell, Richard E. Grant, Matilda Brown, Aaron Jeffery, Claire van der Boom, Charlie VickersFrank's

PRODUCER: Deborah Balderstone, Bryan Brown

DIRECTOR: Rachel Ward

SCRIPT: Rachel Ward, Joanna Murray-Smith

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bonnie Elliott

EDITOR: Nick Meyers

MUSIC: Not credited

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Melinda Doring

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 8, 2019







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