Back in 2012, something unlikely happened - ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ became the third-highest grossing film in Australia, behind ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. Think about how crazy that is: this British/Indian drama was up there with ‘The Avengers’. So of course, due to the insane success, studios took note and now we have an influx of Senior based films, with British rehashes starring someone from ‘Marigold’ or American versions featuring Diane Keaton. It’s been seven years and these films aren’t going away, from ‘Book Club’ to ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’. Australia has tried a few films to reach this demographic, like last year’s ‘Ladies In Black’, but 2019’s ‘Palm Beach’ seems to be our closest comparison to the one that started it all.
It features a lot of actors that your Mum would ask you, “Oh who’s he? He looks familiar.” Frank (Bryan Brown, ‘Red Dog: True Blue’, ‘Cocktail’) is reuniting his friends (this isn’t clear at first, I went in blind and all the younger actors where calling him Uncle so I assumed this was some kind of family reunion movie) at his Palm Beach home for his birthday. He is married to Charlotte (Greta Scacchi, ‘The Player’, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, here giving her best fake-crying face without ever crying) and they have two kids together. They are joined by Leo (Sam Neill, ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’, ‘Jurassic Park’) and his wife Bridget (Jacqueline McKenzie, ‘The Water Diviner’, ‘Romper Stomper’), jingle writer Billy (Richard E. Grant, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’, ‘Logan’), and Eva (Heather Mitchell, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘The Great Gatsby’) an ageing actress who is only being asked to play grandparents.
While these are some fine actors, the acting is pretty mediocre - they are doing nothing here besides enjoying a free vacation. The actors playing the children were trying more than the leading stars, which really says something when you have a cast that big. No one is god-awful, although Scacchi was doing a bit more stage acting than the others and often overreacted to everything, but for the most part all are just fine. The only one who seems to actually care more about her character and not the vacation is Heather Mitchell; her character struggles not just with her job but her relationship, striving for attention and validation while still being the funny friend of the group. The movie tries to give the kids some drama between them and their relationships, but it’s pretty forgettable. It also takes a while to work out who is married to who and whose kids are whose - it’s weird that something so simple like character relationships takes so long to be established.
Even if you love these actors, they have all been in better films.
The story is pretty simple: a group of friends unite for a party and secrets of their friendship and past lives are revealed, yet for all the big reveals and twists this film has they’re all resolved with ease. Not a single complication changes anything for the characters; the biggest plot point is a who’s-the-father arch and is so uninteresting and changes nothing.
‘Palm Beach’ offers very little in its 98-minute run time. It thinks it’s getting deep about growing up and getting old, but it doesn’t - it’s a boring sit that seems to only appeal to the rich white baby boomers who like to complain that millennials are ruining everything. Even if you love these actors, they have all been in better films.