There’s a constant buzz these days about the paucity of behind-the-camera female talent in both Australian and world cinema. That’s very slowly starting to change, thanks to films like Rip Tide, which boasts a female director (sophomore helmer, Rhiannon Bannenberg), screenwriter (Georgia Harrison), cinematographer (Tania Lambert), production designer (Jan Edwards), as well as a central female character and supporting players. But because it’s aimed directly at a young female (or tween) audience, there likely won’t be much in the way of celebration for the admirably estrogen-charged Rip Tide, which is a pity, because there are some nice messages tucked away amongst the film’s glossy images and social media-era storytelling.
Utilising the city-slicker-shifts-to-the-countryside trope tapped in everything from Footloose and Doc Hollywood to Funny Farm and Baby Boom, Rip Tide follows American it-girl fashion model, Cora (winningly played by Disney Channel fave Debby Ryan, best known for the TV series, Jessie), who runs off to Australia to see her long lost aunt, Margot (Genevieve Hegney), after she’s involved in a humiliating social media disaster. Also fleeing the Kris Jenner-like clutches of her model agency-owning mum (Danielle Carter), Cora eventually ditches her big city ways and embraces the decidedly slower lifestyle of her new temporary home in the sleepy beachside town of Tea Tree, which of course includes a little romance in the very handsome form of local surfer and all-round nice guy, Tom (Andrew Creer).
Beautifully shot (has NSW’s Illawarra region ever looked so stunning?) and with an engaging sweetness and sincerity, Rip Tide knows exactly who its audience is, and makes no apologies for it. Even emblazoned with a rare G-rating, this raunch-free charmer has been designed specifically for girls at the lower end of the teen spectrum, and should offer them plenty of appeal. Yes, the story is nothing new and the performances are a little uneven, but the positivity of Rip Tide is contagious, while its standing as a modest piece of cinematic female empowerment (both in its narrative and off-screen creation) can’t be understated.