Thursday, 31 May 2012



While it's admirable that an Australian film should be chosen to open the 59th Sydney Film Festival, one can't help but ask why it was this one? No doubt its perceived comic charm (and star, Ryan Kwanten) was intended to get the Festival off on the right note, but unfortunately Not Suitable For Children fails to hit any notes perfectly, comic or otherwise.

When Jonah (Kwanten) discovers a lump on his testicle, he is soon diagnosed with testicular cancer. Surgery and chemo will prevent the spread of the disease but it will also render him sterile, a notion which grips the charming yet irresponsible Angus with regret: he'll never be a father.

Unless of course he can find a woman – ex-girlfriend, friend of a friend, lesbian couple – willing to offer up her uterus for his sperm in the few weeks before he undergoes the surgeon's knife: putting his juice on ice already proving unsuccessful.

Jonah's flatmates, Gus (Ryan Corr) and Stevie (the Emma Stone-esque Sarah Snook, and the film's best-in-show), aren't too keen on the idea of the suspended adolescent as father. But Stevie soon begins to have a change of heart; not just about Jonah's plans but babies in general (having been staunchly anti-motherhood in the film and, presumably, her whole life).

The most frustrating -- and offensive -- aspect of Peter Templeman's film, written by Michael Lucas, is its muddled approach to its female characters. Both Stevie and Ava (Bojana Novakovic, in an underwritten role), Jonah's most recent ex, flip-flop so readily on their own ideals, and for a man not worthy of them or their ovaries.

What they, and Gus, should be doing instead, is sitting Jonah down with a DVD copy of Lynne Ramsey's We Need To Talk About Kevin: parenthood urges instantly aborted.

Ryan Kwanten, the Aussie actor best known for his role on HBO series, True Blood, proves again his comic skills, while fans of that TV show won't be disappointed by the infrequent displays of flesh. But one feels women would be more likely to mate with Kwanten's reality-challenged Griff The Invisible character than with Jonah.

Then again, Not Suitable For Children could prove to be a crowd pleaser, particularly for a local audience happy to play 'spot the Newtown landmark' (the film being shot around Sydney's inner west).

And even if, for me, the charm of the two leads couldn't overcome the holes in the films internal logic, it may prove less problematic for others. Just like parenthood, Not Suitable For Children will be perfect for some, and not so for others.

Not Suitable For Children (distributed by Icon Film Distribution) releases in Australian cinemas July 12.

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