Palm Beach – Film Review

It’s Frank’s birthday and the snarky old bastard is none too chuffed about it.

Bryan Brown stars as Frank, the one time manager of a one hit wonder band – The Pacific Sideburns. Gathering at his palatial Palm Beach mansion to help celebrate and remember old times, some fondly, others not so, the cast features a veritable roll call of Commonwealth acting royalty.

Frank’s wife, Charlotte (a brilliant Greta Scacchi) has overcome her own hurdles, not the least of which is sticking by Frank’s side as he battles anxiety and a time-of-life crisis. Frank and his closest and oldest friends Leo (Sam Neill) and Billy (Richard E. Grant) met in their twenties and the 3 day party offers a chance to catch up and reflect on different journeys.

The film is co-written and directed by Rachel Ward (Bryan Brown’s real life wife) and she demonstrates a wonderful eye for detail, allowing simple gestures and moments of silence to fill in blanks in the story.

With a cast and crew stacked with female talent, a jaw-dropping location to shoot on, and superb writing that wonderful performers bring to life, this is one of my favourite films of 2019 and a new classic Australian film, up there with The Dressmaker, Ladies in Black, and Muriel’s Wedding in terms of drama, comedy and a reflection of “Australian life”

The film has been bashed by some critics, with some seeing it as  not relatable due to the wealthy lifestyle of the characters. I’m happy to see a film that allows me to dream about living my own lavish lifestyle far beyond reality, and the story does a straightforward job of reminding us that money does not equal happiness. But it probably does buy a great view, as long as there isn’t a chimney in the way.

It’s a film about appreciating what we have, not obsessing over what we don’t, and that’s a valuable lesson I try hard to remember every day.

I caught up with Bryan and Rachel for the 7 Network, and also asked Rachel what determines anyone’s chances of longevity in this industry in Australia?

Rachel Ward – Well it helps to be male. Us girls have a much harder time. I recognised that as a woman in her mid thirties, roles were becoming sparer as I grew away from the male fantasy roles. With women getting behind the camera and getting to opportunity to tell their stories, woman’s roles are broadening to encompass more complex human values than mere sex appeal. I made the change to work behind the camera about twenty years ago. As a woman I’ve again struggled to get work. My default reasoning was that I wasn’t good enough. But I’ve now come recognise it as something else being at work. It’s a great industry when you have position and opportunity and it’s very hard getting the men to move over or reach out a hand to bring you forward. Women are often not much better. As women when we get opportunity we must bring other women with us. That’s all changing now. There’s nothing like sitting on the side lines to make you go, ‘when and if I ever get a chance, I’m bringing other women with me where ever I can.  We had a crew of 51% women. I’m proud of that.

JD – Does maturity bring a different perspective on criticism?

RW – I hope so. I’ll find out won’t I? I’m trying hard for stoic indifference but criticism always hurts if you’re human. I do think critics need to stay cognisant of where a creative endeavour sits in the market place. Men in their 30’s are not really my target audience in this case so butt out with your criticism and let those it is made for, speak.

JD What do Bryan & Rachel take away from this experience?

RW – Making the film was hard work but bloody good fun. It’s terrifying to put something out there. You are very open to failure or rebuttal but the response we’ve had as we’ve travelled the country has been incredibly warm and working with the media in promoting the film has been a lot of fun. You can only enjoy anything for the moment and give it all you got, the rest you can’t control. It was a treat doing the miles from go to woe with hubby. He’s a good egg. I’m a lucky girl.

JD – I think the film is “A Sheer Delight” – 4 Stars.



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