Cast: Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon
Director: Stephen Elliot
I don’t know a whole lot about what went on in Australia during the summers of the 1970s, but I have a hard time believing it was as bizarre as depicted in Swinging Safari. I know this was a time of sexual liberation in the United States, but really hope it didn’t go down the way that it was portrayed here. I guess part of the point of Swinging Safari is showing this from an ironic or exaggerated point of view, but oftentimes it went over my head and didn’t connect. While it may connect to those who lived through that time, Swinging Safari doesn’t reach past its nostalgia to relate to anyone else and only provides a few laughs along the way.
The film takes place in the summer of the 1970s in an Australian beach town where a giant blue whale washes on the beach and captivates the town as it begins to decompose. While that’s going on, the Hall, Jones, and Marsh families are exploring passions and new ideas regardless of what stage in their lives they’re in. Whether these are kids going through puberty and the awkwardness of school or adults looking to switch things up in their marriages, the 1970s seemed to be a bizarre time for everyone in this movie and Swinging Safari shows us just how each of these people is impacted by this summer. I know this is framed in a relatively comedic lens, but I don’t really have any idea what is going for most of the movie. Maybe older or foreign audiences will understand these events better than I did, but I didn’t recognize what many of the objects and themes of this movie were supposed to represent, but I know others will and probably enjoy those scenes. I know at a very basic level it is supposed to represent the metamorphosis of these characters as they experiment with the stages of their life, but I guess I’m not the audience that can identify with this era. At the very least there are a few jokes at the expense of these characters that land and lighten the mood, but between the awkwardness and the unrelatability it’s hard for them to make up for these issues. While the adult actors can come across as arrogant and self-centered, I was surprised how well the child actors handled their roles and the level of authenticity that they performed with. They really did harness the joy of being a kid combined with the fear of growing up and without them I don’t know how well this movie would’ve been received. I don’t know how Elliot is perceived in Australia, but as an outsider looking in, he seems to have a pretty firm grasp of his subject matter even if it’s not easily obtainable to audiences outside of that bubble. I’m guessing Swinging Safari will be more popular with the Australian flower children who lived through this era, but as someone who came around far after that period I don’t think Swinging Safari is for me.
Overall, I’m more than willing to admit that Swinging Safari went over my head and it’s probably much funnier than I interpreted it to be. It’s only 97 minutes, so if you’re on the fence there’s no problem in giving it a shot and seeing if you like it. Maybe older American audiences will find something they like about this movie, but anyone younger than me will probably have a similar reaction that I did. If I were more knowledgeable about the era or the culture, then maybe I would’ve enjoyed Swinging Safari, but those who are will probably see the merit of it.
Overall Score: 6/10