Peter Templeman's debut feature, a rom-com starring "True Blood's" Ryan Kwanten, has sex, drugs and-rock n' roll.
SYDNEY -- Buying into the philosophy of its slacker protagonist, amiable Australian rom-com Not Suitable for Children coasts along on the considerable charm of its leads without doing much work. A vivid inner-Sydney setting and an amped soundtrack can’t quite conceal the deep-seated lassitude, although there’s pleasing distraction in the form of Ryan Kwanten as a wannabe baby daddy.
Following its screening as the opening night film at the Sydney Film Festival, Peter Templeman’s raunchy debut feature has the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll cachet to do modest business among its Gen Y target audience when it opens locally July 5.
But it will probably be best remembered for marking the arrival of Adelaide-born redhead Sarah Snook as Australia’s answer to Emma Stone.
Kwanten, frequently shirtless in HBO’s vampire series True Blood, is more cuddly here as Jonah, a scruffy, hedonistic twenty-something who lives in a ramshackle inner-city share house and seems to earn a passable living throwing wild weekly house parties with best friends Gus (Ryan Corr) and Stevie (Snook.)
Jonah’s carefree, party-hard lifestyle is interrupted when a random sex partner discovers a lump and he is diagnosed with testicular cancer. Robbed of the chance to freeze his sperm for future use, he discovers a potent paternal instinct that narrows his focus to a pinpoint: finding a woman willing to bear his child before the life-saving operation that will render him infertile.
With the op mere weeks away, clucky Jonah starts scrolling through contacts, including his most recent ex-girlfriend, Ava (Bojana Novakovic), and a lesbian couple (Lulu McClatchy and Alice Parkinson). As the rejections mount, sharp-witted, no-nonsense career girl Stevie steps in with a plan.
Whispering a promise to delve into an examination of the modern male psyche, Michael Lucas’s screenplay, based on a story he conceived with Templeman, offers an intriguing set-up, albeit one that bears a passing resemblance to another commitment-free conception comedy, Friends With Kids. Kwanten does a nice line in hapless charm as the increasingly desperate boy-man, but the script doesn’t put in the hard yards warranted by the decision to tackle a serious subject like cancer.
As Stevie edges in from the sidelines, Snook (who was once on the short list to play Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) delivers a thoughtful performance that demonstrates a well of intelligence behind the mile-wide grin.
Templeman, Oscar-nominated in 2007 for his comedy short The Saviour, and cinematographer Lachlan Milne capture the youthful buzz of Sydney’s graffiti-splashed inner western suburbs, assisted by a hipster soundtrack featuring The Black Keys, The Mammals and Gorillaz.
Venue: Sydney Film Festival
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic
Production company: Wild Eddie Productions
Director: Peter Templeman
Screenwriter: Michael Lucas
Producer: Jodi Matterson
Executive producers: Bruna Papandrea, Gary Hamilton, Darren Ashton
Director of photography: Lachlan Milne
Production designer: Elizabeth Mary Moore
Costume designer: Gypsy Taylor
Music: Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma
Editor: Matthew Walker
No rating, 97 minutes.