Stephan Elliott remembers his Australian seventies childhood as a time of riotous partying, slack parenting, ferocious sunburn, teenage lust and uninhibited indulgence in nicotine and alcohol. It’s not how I remember the seventies: my own parents were way too respectable, too boring, too old! – to have one of those wife-swapping ‘key parties’, although I had heard of such things. It was the kind of wicked carry-on you might find in California, say, or maybe Sydney.
But if I remind you that Stephan Elliott directed Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s all a bit exaggerated and OTT. A little bit too silly – and gross – to be entirely successful, in my view. But it IS fun to see the cast of veteran Aussie actors playing a bunch of middle-aged hedonists failing to act their age. They all look their age though: Julian McMahon as the wanky spiv with a fake tan, Guy Pearce with his sun-cratered face even if he does still have a great physique. Pearce, despite his many successful years in Hollywood, has not lost his ability to speak flawless broad Aussie, and he does it with relish. I love him for that. Kylie Minogue plays a child-weary alcoholic, and I applaud her
professional maturity in taking on such an unglamorous role.
Radha Mitchell, Asher Keddie and a beer-gutted Jeremy Sims (he directed The Sapphires) do a great job rounding out the ensemble as their spouses, and Jack Thomson plays the kind of ruddy-faced, overweight Aussie back-slapper he always has. The kids are good too. In fact despite the poster depicting only the three adult couples, the story is as much about the kids as it is the naughty grownups.
No-one says ‘partner’, but there are anachronisms. I’m sure we didn’t say something ‘sucks’ in the 70s. Nor would you have heard the word ‘unsustainable’ used, certainly not with knowing irony. Fist bumps didn’t come in till much later, and wouldn’t with-it types like this have put on something groovier than Herb Alpert for party music??? I mean, MY parents had Swingin Safari for chrissake, which proves my point!
First published on Facebook in February 2017