Not Suitable For Children – Review
I never know what to expect when I go see a new Australian film, especially one that’s a coming of age-romantic comedy. The Australian film industry does serious, sinister and suspenseful films well, in fact extremely well, with Snowtown and Animal Kingdom being two outstanding recent examples. Or even Lantana (2001). But anything that differs seems to be extremely hit or miss, with rom-coms falling into the miss category more than others. With this in mind, I was impressed, in fact, surprisingly impressed with Not Suitable for Children.
When free-living party boy Jonah (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) is diagnosed with testicular cancer, and then discovers that the sperm bank is unable to successfully freeze his sperm, he is faced with the notion of complete infertility, giving him three weeks to find someone to bare his child. The list includes ex-girlfriends (including Ava - Bojana Novakovic), lesbian couples, middle-aged single women and best friend and housemate Stevie (Sarah Snook). Included in all the mayhem is the third housemate and general party expert Gus (Ryan Corr).
The central premise looks laden with the possibility for cliches and stereotypes, and writer Michael Lucas, with director Peter Templeman (debut feature film for both), on paper, include most of them; Jonah the party boy who comes to the realisation that there’s more to life, Stevie the ‘girl-next-door’ best friend, Gus the zany housemate who acts as steady comic relief, and even an up-tight ex-girlfriend thrown into the mix.
However these characters are handled in a way, to the credit of the writer, director and actors, in which the stereotypes never fall in to the domain of generic and cliched, and the same goes with the narrative and how it develops. The idea that it’s being potentially childless that forces Jonah to review what he wants in life, rather than the realisation of the fragility of life, is a perspective not often focused on in these styles of films.Furthermore, the fact that Jonah’s lifestyle is never really called into question, that he’s more concerned about what he’ll be denied in the future but not necessarily how he’s living life in the present, is also a refreshingly different theme for this type of film.
Not Suitable for Children also has genuinely funny moments. In a crossover genre like this, the comedy should always be played straight, never forced in a way that looks desperate for laughs, and thankfully the humour came naturally, rather than forced. There aren’t any comedic set pieces, the humour comes as a by-product of these characters being thrown into unknown territory. Corr as Gus, does often act as the comedic relief, but never over does it.
The performances are strong, Kwanten is impressive as Jonah, giving a very steady performance, although more could have been done for us to completely understand his character and his motives more thoroughly, but this is a scripting issue. Corr, once again, does very well as the party obsessed housemate Gus, and is a strong vein of comedy throughout the film. But the highlight is no doubt Snook, who is both likeable and charismatic as Stevie, and never strays into the usual, almost auto-pilot performance that many actors give as the platonic best friend-turn-romantic interest. The camera adores her.
This is a strong debut for Lucas and Templemen, as well as a strong showing for the main cast involved. The narrative and premise are nothing new, and probably a bit safe, but it’s handled impressively and it certainly maintains the entertainment throughout. While it was easy to think that you know how it would unfold, the narrative managed to develop in ways that provided enjoyable elements of surprise.
Release Date: 12 July, 2012.
Directed By: Peter Templeman.
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr and Bojana Novakovic.