Not Suitable For Children Review By Adam
Another haphazard, low-budget, Aussie romcom? Yawn. I know what you are thinking, because that’s what I thought as well. Unfortunately, it is ingrained in us: Australian films suck. Well, at least most of the time. So it is with great joy that I can announce that Not Suitable for Children not only doesn’t suck, but might just be the best Australian film of the year. A film with great characters, laughs and earned emotion, Not Suitable isn’t a revolutionary film, but it does what most of its romantic ilk doesn’t: it actually works.
Not Suitable follows loveable knockabout Jonah (Ryan Kwanten) who finds out he has a lump in his junk during a mid-party blow job. After this ballsy introduction (pun intended), Jonah is told that he has (treatable) testicular cancer and one month of fertility. With newfound paternal instincts kicking into overdrive, Jonah races against the clock to procreate before it’s too late. But will his unambitious nature and dim demeanour keep him away from quality mating partners? And will he drive his housemates Gus (Ryan Corr) and Stevie (Sarah Snook) mad in his quest?
In order to avoid falling into the great Australian tradition of over-praising our films, I must note that Not Suitable is not a comedic masterpiece and it doesn’t have a single element that is truly jaw-droppingly extraordinary (except, arguably, Sarah Snook’s performance). But what it does have is an unbelievable consistency. Not Suitable is like a cinematic MVP: it just keeps plugging away, doing everything so right across the board that the cumulative effect is quite remarkable. Make no mistake, this film has some hysterical moments, but it does have long dramatic stretches and it’s a testament to writer Michael Lucas’s characters (and the actors performing them) that we remain utterly engaged even when the film shifts gears.
This film has a simple gimmick at its centre — what would you do if you had a limited time to procreate? — and Lucas wrings it for all its worth. But Lucas isn’t content just to rest on his single, clever conceit. Much like Judd Apatow’s breakout hit The 40-year old Virgin, Lucas uses his core concept as a narrative springboard and also manages to layer the film with clear motivations and emotional intelligence. There are plenty of scenes of Jonah making a fool of himself and trying to sell himself as viable sperm donor, but Lucas also has a bigger picture in mind, and he slowly and subtly pulls you in until you are completely hooked into this story. He also fills the film with funny dialogue and sharply observed one-liners – like most elements of this film they fit comfortably and never try too hard.
Big props must be given to Australian actor Ryan Kwanten. Despite starring in runaway American hit, HBO’s True Blood, Kwanten has spent his last couple of TV off-seasons staring in low-budget Australian films like Red Hill and Griff the Invisible. While, I imagine it would be quite easy for Kwanten to capitalize on his new found fame and headline Hollywood dreck, I find it commendable that he is helping to get films like Not Suitable made. Not only is Kwanten altruistic, but he is also a damn fine actor. While on the surface Jonah may seem like the stereotypical Aussie layabout, his quandary is anything but and Kwanten nails all of Jonah’s facets: we truly believe in his worries and internal changes. And despite engaging in a heavy dose of sexual action, Jonah is easily distinguishable from Kwanten’s over-sexed TV alter-ego Jason Stackhouse. Kwanten is offered phenomenal support by Sarah Snook as Jonah’s no-nonsense housemate, Stevie. I barely registered Snook at the start of the film, but much like Lucas’s script, Snook sneaks up you and ends up stealing your heart. Snook has real cinematic presence and has an ‘Emma Stone thing’ going on (a.k.a she’s the whole package);I hope this is the film that launches her into the stratosphere. Ryan Corr gives an enjoyable performance as the oblivious Gus and he manages to generate quite a few of the film’s laughs, though his character rarely transcends that of ‘straight-man’ device and occasionally he feels over-used. Bojana Novakovic is also a welcome addition to this film – she has been popping up in a multitude of Australian films lately (Burning Man, The King is Dead!) and her work in Not Suitable is characteristicly solid.
While, Not Suitable is a limited budget affair, director Peter Templeman makes the most of every location. The film is shot in a clean and clear way that focuses on the performers and he never goes for over-stylisation. Templeman stages a bunch of house party sequences extremely well and he effortlessly conveys the controlled chaos within. His pacing is also fantastic; Lucas’s script covers quite a lot of ground and Templeman makes sure that we are constantly engaged with every twist and turn. Not Suitable is also helped immensely by a kick-arse soundtrack (featuring The Black Keys) that gels perfectly with its rambunctious, twenty-somethings atmosphere.
I know that this review has been overwhelmingly positive (for a change), but, goddamn it, why shouldn’t it be? Miracle of miracles: I’ve actually seen a good Australian film. Not Suitable is not a flat-out gut buster, and anyone looking for a laugh-a-minute riot may be in for a disappointment. But Not Suitable swaps some of its laughs for drama and solid characterisation, and, for me, that’s a clever trade. I imagine that this film will please just about everyone except the most dour of humourless arseholes. I urge you to check it out.