A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
In this 1969 film an ageing and bored successful artist leaves New York for a sun-filled respite on a beautiful but sparsely populated Australian island. There he runs into a teenager who serves as his artistic muse and model. In the process his creative juices start flowing again.
In Powell’s hands this modest comedy becomes an entertaining and occasionally thought provoking exploration of aging, discovery, culture shock, and dreamlike tropical vacations. The stereotypes and occasional slapstick humor don’t deter from what is essentially a rather relaxed and even at times sweet film.
It doesn’t hurt that Helen Mirren as the teenager spends much of her time either scantily clad or in the nude. But the film rarely panders and Mirren’s own strong personality and sense of curiosity overcomes any prurience that might have been emphasized by lesser or less mature hands. James Mason as the artist is quite convincing. His character focuses on his art, his privacy, and his sincere desire to help this girl whose career goals are so modest. He played so many different types of characters both good and bad in his career that it is quite refreshing to see him focus on an individual searching for meaning.
My favorite scene occurs in a rare visit to a store where Mirren and Mason go to shop. She’s there to sell her fishing catch. He’s there to buy supplies. He coaches her on negotiating a fair price. Mirren, accustomed to scraping by a simple living with what she catches along the beach, for the first time sees the possibility that she could buy some simple pleasures with her own money. It’s a simple scene but a lot happens in character development and communication.
Movie review copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald