Palm Beach is the name and the backdrop for the Australian film brought to the screen by, actress turned director, Rachel Ward. Ward is the wife of Bryan Brown, who stars in the film alongside Sam Neill, Richard E Grant, Greta Scachhi, Jacqueline Mckenzie and Heather Mitchell- names that will be better known to Aussie viewers.
The sextet plays three middle-aged couples who reunite after some years apart. Brown plays Frank, the former band manager of the failed one-hit-wonders, “Pacific Sideburns”, of which Leo (Neill) and Billy (Grant) were members.
Twenty years on from the dismantling of the band, its members have gone on to varying levels of success. Frank has fared best and managed to set himself and his family up in an exquisite beach-front home overlooking Sydney’s gorgeous Palm Beach, where everyone will be spending a few days to celebrate his birthday.
Palm Beach begins as a film about friendship but the friendships, especially the male ones, seem to cause more problems than they solve so thematically this didn’t resonate well.
The friends have come together and brought with them all their aging rich white people problems including slowing acting and music careers and having to sell their prestige cars to pay the bills, as well as a few more relatable struggles like fading love, parenting difficulties and identity crises.
Palm Beach strives to show the audience that what appears glamourous and perfect may not always be, and that no amount of money makes for an easy run in life. That said, in a film where you could pick any scene at random and it would look right at home in a glossy House and Garden magazine, it’s hard to muster sympathy for the characters.
A lesser cast could’ve seen Palm Beach fall on its face but this ensemble cast and the many years of acting experience between them save it from being totally overshadowed by its lush scenery and set dressing.
The characters are fleshy and the acting bolsters moments where the writing is not particularly strong. Brown, Scacchi, Neill and Grant deliver heartfelt, seasoned performances worth watching. McKenzie and Mitchell are just as good but seem relegated by the script to occupy the supporting roles of withering spouses.
The overwhelming number of party scenes make it feel like a fun watch and there’s enough of a story there to hold your interest, but the overall vibe is one of a Nespresso ad on steroids, which has the potential to irritate anyone who isn’t white, wealthy and middle-aged.
Though arguably the lyric should be changed to “middle-aged”, I left the cinema whistling the Ben Folds tune Rockin the Suburbs, because after the film you too will know what’s it’s like being male, middle class and white.
SEE IT if…
You’re feeling past your prime
You love character-driven films
SKIP IT if…
White privilege irritates you
You’re under thirty
It gets 2.5 stars out of 5