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. A satire and a love letter to a typical 1970s Australian summer, a world of careless parenting, constant sunburn and dangerous unsupervised activities.
Review by Louise Keller:
Prawn heads in hubcaps, spin-the-vase and a rotting beached whale are some of the ingredients of Steph Elliott's semi-autobiographical film: a rowdy, crude and playful parody that takes an affectionate look at life in 70s Australia. It's a colourful, insane Bogan-like world in which parents are irresponsible, while kids are uniformly led astray. To get the most out of Elliott's film, leave your inhibitions in the doghouse and slip into a puddle of lunacy.
It may not be as complete as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) or the underrated Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), but Swinging Safari works well on its own terms, offering fearless, raucous energy with chuckles, laugh aloud moments and a pulse that fluctuates precariously. Savage at times, it's occasionally hit and miss, but one thing is certain, it bears Elliott's outrageous joie de vivre and reminds us that life should not be taken too seriously. Some may be offended. The action is neatly cocooned in Lizzie Gardiner's cringe-worthy costumes, Colin Gibson's nostalgic production design and Guy Gross's toe-tapping score.
There are cheese fondus, pineapple hors d'oeuvres, iced vovos, Kentucky Fried and fruit loops amid beanbags, wayward beach umbrellas, safari jackets, bellbottoms and platform shoes. All this with inappropriate language, political incorrectness and an in-form enthusiastic cast that is clearly having a hoot.
Watch for the hilarious Swinging Safari 'swingers' scene in which relationships fester and marriages wilt under the strain. There's Guy Pearce reveling under a droopy moustache, Kylie Minogue almost unrecognizable as his insular wife, Radha Mitchell feisty and fabulous, Julian McMahon with a glint in his eye, Jeremy Sims with great mutton chops and Asher Keddie wonderful as she swallows earrings instead of her pills. All great caricatures. No Aussie film is complete without Jack Thompson and Elliott himself features in a couple of amusing cameos. Central to the plot is the burgeoning relationship between the two conservative youngsters (arguably the only sane characters in the film), who want to escape from it all. Atticus Robb plays Elliott's alter-ego, the reclusive boy who looks at life through his Super 8 and Darcey Wilson as the thoughtful 14 year old.
'If our parents have everything, why are they so miserable' is my favourite line and the gags involving animals (dogs, snakes, turtles, seagulls and whales) offer plenty of juice. As for the climactic scene involving the whale.... let me simply say, the special effects team must have had a whale of a time (pun intended).
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SWINGING SAFARI (M)
CAST: Radha Mitchell, Guy Pearce, Julian McMahon, Kylie Minogue, Asher Keddie, Jack Thompson, Alice Lanesbury, Jacob Elordi, Jeremy Sims,
PRODUCER: Al Clark, Jamie Hilton
DIRECTOR: Stephan Elliott
SCRIPT: Stephan Elliott
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brad Shield
EDITOR: Sue Blainey
MUSIC: Guy Gross
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Colin Gibson
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Becker Film Group
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 18, 2018