Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Peter Templeman
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic, Kathryn Beck, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Daniel Henshall
The new Australian film Not Suitable For Children is a quirky romantic comedy that eschews the usual formula of the genre. Local filmmakers often fall flat when attempting to make a broad comedy, which makes Not Suitable For Children a pleasant surprise. It deals with some universal themes and has the potential to be a box office hit, which in itself is rare amongst locally produced films. The film opened the recent Sydney Film Festival, which also gives it some gravitas in the lead up to its commercial release.
Jonah (played by True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten) is a twentysomething slacker who lives in a shared house in an inner suburb of Sydney and supplements his income through holding massive parties every weekend. Their weekly parties are fast becoming legend. Jonah is also something of a ladies man, although he is unable to commit to a long-term relationship. But during a one-night stand, a girl finds a small lump on one of his testicles, which forces Jonah to reevaluate his life and his future. A doctor diagnoses the lump as testicular cancer, and assures him it can be easily removed. But Jonah learns that the process of removing it will leave him infertile.
Jonah, who has never previously considered becoming a father, all of a sudden decides that he wants to father a child. He has three weeks to find a suitable partner. With the help of his sensible but cynical housemate Stevie (rising young star Sarah Snook), Jonah begins the search. He auditions a number of former girl friends Ava (Bojana Novakovic) and Becky (Kathryn Beck), a willing lesbian couple, and several other casual acquaintances before the obvious strikes him. He and Stevie come to an arrangement. Stevie becomes the true focus of the film and we see her weighing up her options.
This raunchy and often very funny comedy tackles a taboo subject, but is not as gross out as the comedies from the Judd Apatow stable. The title is very appropriate, because not only is Jonah unfit to be a parent when we first meet him, but the raunchy content of the film means that it is aimed squarely at more mature audiences.
Writer Michael Lucas (Offspring, etc) took inspiration for the script from his own scare and personal experiences after finding a lump on his testicles. We’ve had a couple of other so-called comedies about cancer recently – with 50/50 and the French film Declaration Of War – but Not Suitable For Children forges its own path. The script mixes comedy and drama and pathos, but admittedly there are a few flat spots in the first half of the film.
Peter Templeman, a renowned director of short films whose 2007 film The Saviour was nominated for an Oscar, makes an assured debut with this feature. Templeman captures the atmosphere and vibe of inner city living and the shared house experience, and the party scenes are filled with great energy. The music and hip dialogue will also appeal to a younger audience. But Templeman also directs with compassion and a refreshing honesty.
Kwanten always returns home to make a local film during breaks from his hit tv series, and he has delivered impressive performances in both the thriller Red Hill and the quirky offbeat superhero film Griff The Invisible. Here the likeable and hunky Kwanten is cast against type as the scruffy, irresponsible Jonah, but he brings an unassuming charm and down to earth quality to his role. Audiences reluctantly warm to this hedonistic party animal character as the film goes on.
Ryan Corr (from Packed To The Rafters, etc) gets plenty of laughs as Gus, the third housemate in this scenario, who is largely unaware of what is going on between Jonah and Stevie.
But it is Snook who stands out with her sassy style and acerbic delivery. There is a palpable chemistry between Kwanten and Snook which gives their often awkward and intimate scenes a sense of credibility.
Like Templeman, cinematographer Lachlan Milne hails from a background in short films, and he has done a great job here as the film looks g wonderful on the big screen.