Palm Beach is billed as a drama-comedy Australian film about a bunch of old friends who used to be in a rock band together back in their hey-day, that reunite to celebrate a birthday milestone. Unfortunately, just like any old-friends or extended family gathering, there is history, love, drama, conflict and frustration.
Directed by Rachel Ward, Palm Beach stars Bryan Brown as Frank, Greta Scacchi as Charlotte, Sam Neill as Leo, Jacqueline McKenzie as Bridget, Richard E. Grant as Billy, and Heather Mitchell as Eva. With a spectacular cast, one would think Palm Beach would be cinematic magic. At least, that’s what I was expecting. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Although the concept seems like a brilliant idea, the execution is poor. I didn’t find myself caring for any of the characters, not even when one goes to hospital. I did pity and became slightly frustrated for Bryan Brown’s character Frank at one point, as he was getting his birthday completely bulldozed by his loved ones. But my emotional connection with Frank’s turmoil did not last long.
While watching the film, I felt that if I had wanted to see a bunch of friends or family bicker, I could have just organised my own damn family gathering and watched the chaos unfold. At least then I’d be more emotionally involved and interested.
With Palm Beach; I barely laughed, I wasn’t moved and I daresay that I felt nothing. Nothing. I thought this was supposed to be a drama-comedy? When I watch a movie, I need a solid story to keep me attentive. The only thing solid about this film is how ‘Australian’ it is, forcibly displaying picturesque views of Palm Beach, New South Wales and the high-end lavish life that I cannot afford. Nevermind the bloody chimney drama, some of us can’t even afford a house with the insane prices, nor may ever be able to retire. If anything, it actually infuriated me that the characters were bickering about trivial shit that didn’t actually matter in comparison to other serious things happening in the world. Yes, I understand that this film is fictional, but that doesn’t make the characters seem any less self-absorbed and selfish.
The big mistake the film makes is the choice of basing the storyline around a birthday. They honestly should have based the film around the topic of Christmas. That way, the film could have been more relatable to everyone – because let’s face it, how often can you fly everyone business class to celebrate your birthday and have them all crash over as guests in your beach front mansion? If you want a film to be successful, make the characters feel relatable – make them feel real. While it’s clear the actors of the film have some real friendships off-screen, none of the characters felt real to me, nor did I care for any of their silly subplot outcomes.
In the end, Palm Beach is just an expensive nightmare that bore me brainless. Okay, so perhaps maybe I’m not the targeted demographic for this film. But if it was a good film – it wouldn’t matter.