A struggling Adelaide restaurateur is thrown into turmoil when her ex – Henry, a movie star and possibly the love of her life – returns to town seeking a reunion. Ronnie (Emily Taheny) is living with her cheery boofhead boyfriend Jeff, and Henry (Eddie Izzard) has a sexy French girlfriend in tow, but this doesn’t kerb the magnetism between the two former lovers. Thanks to Jeff’s (Luke McKenzie) misplaced helpfulness, the four find themselves on an ill-fated, shiraz-fuelled road trip. Combine stock characters with dusty tin towns, an iconic (and unfortunate) native marsupial, and a general lack of pretentiousness, and you have in The Flip Side a familiar Aussie rom-com formula.
Unfortunately, The Flip Side also suffers from an all-too frequent element in Australian cinema: lack of imagination. There is no interesting little detail that makes a character unique, no whimsical plot element to surprise us. Sure, there are one or two… if not laughs… sniggers to be had, usually at the hand of Henry’s girlfriend Sophie (Vanessa Guide), who is the sort of casual bitchy you can appreciate unless you’re her target. But ultimately the most surprising thing about this movie is that it got a theatrical release at all.
The Flip Side is clearly done on the cheap, but some of the filmmaking is just plain shoddy. The shots are pedestrian and uninspired, the lighting is generalised, and the scenes are not staged or cut in a way that the jokes land properly. But what really sinks The Flip Side is one actor: McKenzie. Whether through casting, bad direction or acting, he is wrong for the part of the sweet doofus. There is no chemistry between him and Taheny, (they look like roommates) so who cares what happens to their relationship? A lot hangs on Jeff being both noble and kind of stupid, and getting this right may have allowed us to forgive the movie its other faults.
Eddie Izzard, on the other hand, appears to have been shipped in from a much better movie. He is totally credible as a flamboyant celebrity: intense, confident and passionate, and just as fickle and superficial as we expect from movie-stars. He is definitely the best thing about The Flip Side, but his easy competence further underlines the weaknesses in his co-stars’ performances.
It’s a shame. It would be nice to support home-grown cinema. Australia inarguably has world-class technicians and creatives for every role you could name, but for each Animal Kingdom, there are fifty flaccid, uninspired movies like The Flip Side.