THE FLIP SIDE
Director: Marion Pilowsky
Screenwriters: Marion Pilowsky and Lee Sellars
Runtime: 90 mins.
Australian release date: 30 August 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 29 August 2018.
Seasoned producer Marion Pilowsky makes her feature directorial debut with The Flip Side, a comedy that she co-wrote with Lee Sellars. One can only surmise that it was Pilowsky’s reputation as a producer that opened the doors to the film’s funding sources because, regrettably, it’s a pretty pedestrian effort, and the script is not very funny. As happens repeatedly with Aussie films, the screenplay feels like it was written around the kitchen table over a couple of Saturday afternoons - it just doesn’t seem to have had enough time spent on it, ironing out the kinks and the clumsiness. Technically, the film looks great and there are some very fine performances but it just doesn’t gel as a romantic comedy. It lacks spark.
Veronica aka ‘Ronnie’ (Emily Taheny) is a restaurateur in Adelaide battling debts coming at her from all sides. Her mother, Iris (Tina Bursill), is about to be evicted from a private retirement home and sent to a state-run institution, her boyfriend Jeff (Luke McKenzie) is ‘a writer’ who spends most of his time on their sofa watching TV, and her restaurant is failing. As Ronnie’s world is crashing around her, Jeff takes a phone call from Sophie (Gallic actress Vanessa Guide), the French assistant-slash-girlfriend to British film star Henry (Eddie Izzard), who Ronnie catered for on set five years ago. Henry will be visiting Adelaide and wants to catch up with his old chef; Jeff is so excited about meeting a famous actor that he goes out of his way to be available, inviting the couple to stay with them and he’s chuffed when they accept. He is doubly chuffed when Henry encourages him to develop his novel-in-progress into a screenplay and suggests that he, Henry, could play the lead role in the resulting film. What Jeff doesn’t know, however, is that Ronnie and Henry have a romantic past and there are still a few flames smouldering in the fireplace, and this previous liaison, which came to a sudden halt when Henry left town, is unresolved.
The Flip Side has all the ingredients for a good rom-com, and it shows off South Australia well; Adelaide and environs make terrific locations and look great. Fundamentally it is a sweet, relatively straight-forward yarn - one that could have garnered an audience interested in the intricacies surrounding relationships, careers and the important decisions, both positive and negative, that one makes in life - but there is a glaring misjudgement in casting. Taheny delivers a strong performance as Ronnie, a woman battling the odds as she divides herself between the responsibilities of looking after her mother’s needs, her boyfriend’s needs, the needs of a long-lost lover and, last but not least, her own needs. She is also up against the sarcasm of the Francophile Sophie, who goes out of her way to criticise her (and Australia) at every opportunity. Unfortunately Guide overplays her character to the max so instead of being amusing, Sophie becomes clichéd. The biggest misstep, however, is the casting of Izzard as Henry. He looks out of place, both physically and emotionally, and his character is stilted and unbelievable. You just can’t accept that here was ever an attraction between him and Ronnie; their relationship is completely bloodless and lacks passion. It’s sad to say, but the same could be said of The Flip Side.