Years after they had a fling on a movie set, self-absorbed British movie star Henry (Eddie Izzard) drops back into the life of Adelaide chef and restaurateur Ronnie (Emily Taheny), possibly looking to rekindle their romance.
Times have changed, though. Ronnie has a new partner in gormless aspiring novelist (and relief science teacher by day) Jeff (Luke McKenzie), and a raft of problems: her business is failing, and she can’t afford to pay the dues on her dementia-addled mother’s (Tina Bursill) retirement home. Add to that the fact that Henry broke her heart when he decamped back to London, and she’s got no good reason to welcome him back.
But The Flip Side is a film about poor choices, and most of them happen at the script level, which is Ronnie and Henry find themselves on a road trip to the bush, with Jeff and Sophie (Vanessa Guide), Henry’s flirtatious, manipulative assistant/girlfriend, in tow. Comedy and relationship drama should ensue, but generally doesn’t.
The Flip Side is, to be blunt, a mess. It’s trying to be textured, nuanced, complex, and astute, presenting us with complicated characters (well, one complicated character – the spotlight is squarely on Ronnie) leading complicated lives.
It fails at this.
Instead, the film feels overly busy, stuffed with superfluous incident (a wedding catering gig waiting in the wings, Jeff’s Murakami-esque allegorical novel, some last minute business about a comic book movie that Henry is cast in) and yet limps along when we’re dealing with what should be the meat of the matter – the interplay between these four characters. There’s no sense of progression, either dramatically or in terms of what should be evolving character dynamics. When the credits roll, everyone is almost exactly who they were when they started out – which is pretty damning.
Coupled with a flattened, almost non-existent character arc is the feeling that the script, co-written by director Marion Pilowsky and Lee Sellars, doesn’t trust the audience to keep up with current events, which is insulting; The Flip Side, for all its needless bells and whistles, is a pretty straight forward affair, and yet there exists in its universe a character, played by comedian Susie Youssef, whose sole function is to act as a sounding board so Ronnie can reiterate what we just saw happen in the preceding scenes. This happens more than once.
There are occasional bright spots. The hugely charismatic Izzard occasionally wrings laughs out of his flamboyant and self-aggrandising character; Guide, underserved by the script, goes full over the top bitchy Eurotrash; and cinematographer Steve Arnold (Last Cab to Darwin) keeps things bright and poppy. There, that’s your lot.
The Flip Side isn’t terrible. Terrible films are at least interesting. It’s like a nail chewed to the quick, or a cold not severe enough to warrant a day off: annoying, certainly not enjoyable, but soon over and easily forgotten.