Spin-the-vase, a late night taste of fondu, and a rotting beached whale make for just some of the intricate ingredients of Stephan Elliott‘s semi-autobiographical comedy Swinging Safari, a gloriously playful film that finds both the humour and the horror of growing up in Australia in the 1970’s.
As kinetic a film it may be (I guarantee you’ll almost be on sensory overload by the time the opening credits have started to roll), there’s no denying its energy and affection for the period as Elliott revels in his presentation of the sextet of parents behaving badly, with their incorrigible children following by example.
Whilst some audiences will find much to be offended by (I dare say the explosive finale involving the aforementioned whale could test a few viewers) it’s difficult to fault Elliott’s vision. He just wants his audience to have as much fun watching the film as evidently his game cast did in making it, and regardless of how one could react to grown women urinating on children in a bid to relieve a jellyfish sting (as Kylie Minogue‘s hermit-like, liquor-downing housewife does to her unfortunate spawn) or the humour he manages to evoke out of the line-up of neighbourhood boys cushioning a suburban stairwell as they await the oral qualities of Asher Keddie‘s promiscuous teenage daughter, the wonderfully nostalgic production design and cringe-inducing wardrobe should soften the criticism.
There’s really so much going on with this film that it’s easy to forget that there’s a story to be told, and as grounded as young Atticus Robb and Darcey Wilson are as Swinging Safari‘s protagonists, two 14 year-olds trying to navigate their way around the sexual revolution that has evidently impacted every other member of their respective families bar them, the film finds its joy in embracing the incorrectness.
Next to the almost unrecognisable Minogue, a heavily-moustached (and oft-scantily clad) Guy Pearce is having the grandest time as her mischievously extroverted husband. Keddie, keeping up appearances but forgetting to bring her manners, is a joy to watch misbehave, as is the heavily mutton-chopped Jeremy Sims as her suffering husband, and Julian McMahon (speedos and all) and a wonderfully feisty Radha Mitchell as their adventurous neighbours who live by the term quantity over quality.
A film that can be easily deemed both a love letter to and a satire of 1970’s Australia, Swinging Safari still manages to maintain a sense of heart amongst the rude lunacy that dominates much of its crisp 95 minutes. It’s inappropriate and unapologetic, and revels in offending nearly every archetype one can think of, but its lack of maliciousness and vanity in doing so allows the film to get away with a personality that’s difficult to dislike.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Swinging Safari is in cinemas on Thursday, January 18th.