Dir: Paul Goldman. Australia. 2003. 95mins.
Frank Sinatra's 1974 tour of Australia is the stuff of legends. During his first gig he quipped that local female journalists who had been writing racy copy about his sexlife were "buck-and-a-half hookers". Not keen on criticism from overseas guests - even from showbiz royalty - the journalists' association demanded an apology and, in quick time, thousands of unionists voted to stop the tour, ground his private jet and isolate his suite in a top Sydney hotel. Ocean Pictures created a buzz when announcing that Dennis Hopper had been signed to play Sinatra in a version of these bizarre events, with Melanie Griffith as his touring girlfriend (later 4th wife) Barbara Marx. So it's disappointing that the feature should be so slow-paced and unfocused, so intent on telling quite another story.
Presumably fearing a modern mass audience wouldn't know or care enough about Sinatra, writers Clifton and Thomas (who also get exec producer and producer credits) have centred the action on the lovelife of young rock promoter Rod Blue (Edgerton), a fictional character. Bedding chicks in an apartment with a panoramic view of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Rod has many aggressive creditors, a gangster father and a lovelorn assistant/girlfriend, Audrey (Byrne). To escape the dangers of promoting unpaid local rock musicians, Rod phones Sinatra's agent Mickey Rudin (Hemmings) and tries to book the famous star. Scraping together enough cash for a trip to LA, Rod clinches the unexpected deal and eagerly prepares for action.
When he gets sexually targeted by Hilary (De Rossi), the man-hungry journalist who first riles Sinatra, Rod is soon coping with mushrooming problems from both pretty Audrey and cranky Frankie, who refuses to say 'sorry' to anyone, let alone rampaging journalists. Besieged in their suite with no telephones, air conditioning or room service, the Sinatra entourage settles in for a long wait.
Union boss Bob Hawke (Field) is summoned to break the stalemate. Australian audiences will have fun watching this broadly comic version of Hawke - later to become a popular, long-serving Prime Minister - as he cons and bluffs Rudin to an agreed statement which cleverly masks the fact that Sinatra still hasn't apologised.
Hopper has many good moments as the living legend with a short fuse. His concert performances (excellently recorded by Sinatra sing-alike Tom Burlinson) are convincing and his blue eyes show real pain as he speaks about the lost women of his past. Griffith is glamorously underemployed as sensible Barbara, urging Frank to drink less booze, advising Rod and Audrey to stay together. Hemmings is outstanding as the heavy drinking, seen-it-all-before Hollywood manager, while attractive Aussie pairing Edgerton and Byrne do what they can with their contrived relationship.
Paul Goldman directs his second feature after last year's powerful Australian Rules. Here his pacing is slack, his screenplay deficient, his crowd scenes thin. Perhaps there wasn't much budget left after the main casting.
* An edited version of this review, with additional industry data and information, can be found in the Aug 29 issue of Screen International
Prod cos: Ocean Pictures, Scala Prods, Baker Street, Take Partnerships, Film Finance Corp Australia, Showtime Australia, Australian Film Commission
Aust/NZ dist: Icon Film Distribution
Int'l sales: Winchester Films
Exec prods: Michael Thomas, Jonathan Shteinman
Prods: Emile Sherman, Nik Powell, Peter Clifton
Scr: Clifton, Thomas
Cinematography: Danny Ruhlmann
Prod des: Michael Philips
Ed: Stephen Evans
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Main cast: Dennis Hopper, Melanie Griffith, Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne, Portia De Rossi, David Hemmings, David Field