“Blurred” is a more innocent variation on “American Pie” and other Hollywood teen pics, with a dash of “Short Cuts” thrown in. Filled with immensely likable characters and papered with wall-to-wall music, pic is saddled with the liabilities of a dreadful garish look and no-name cast. However, the filmmakers overcome these drawbacks with an ensemble of well developed and mostly well acted characters and, with the right distrib push, pic should score strongly in Australia, with enormous ancillary possibilities. However, the recent flop of teen-oriented “Garage Days” suggests that Aussie teens may respond more to Yank fare than to home-grown product.
Defining moment for Australian teenagers is when their high school education is completed. The tradition of Schoolies’ Week has emerged, in which some 70,000 kids from all over Australia congregate at Queensland’s Surfers’ Paradise every November for a hedonistic week of drinking, drugs, rock and sex.
Filmmakers avoid the grossness and explicitness that might have been expected from the subject. Instead, this comedy of frustration is surprisingly, and winningly, sweet and tender, dealing not so much with the events at Surfers as with the attempts of a disparate group of characters to get there.
Juggling 16 major characters, the screenplay by Stephen Davis and Kier Shorey, which betrays no hint of its origins in a play by Davis, creates believable, well-rounded characters that the viewer can care about.
Best friends Danny (Kristian Schmid), Pete (Craig Horner) and Lynette (Veronica Sywak) went through high school together, but now Danny and Lynette are experiencing pangs of sex, leaving Pete the outsider. Traveling by bus, they’re thrown off for playing their ghetto-blaster too loud.
Jillian (Jessica Gower) and Bradley (Tony Brockman) are coming by train; they’re already lovers, but Bradley wants to suspend their relationship during the coming week. Jillian is outraged, and responds by activating the train’s emergency brake and departing in the company of the very virginal Zack (Jamie Croft). Freda (Nathalie Roy), who was educated in a private school, is already in Surfers, staying in her mother’s apartment; she anxiously awaits the arrival of her friends Yolanda (Petra Yared) and Amanda (Charlotte Rees), who have hired a limo driven by the spunky Mason (Matthew Newton, looking startlingly like the young David Hemmings). The girls get drunk and Amanda and Mason swap clothes, but when he gets too eager, the girls leave him on the highway in a dress.
Calvin (Mark Priestley) and Wayne (Travis Cotton) are farm boys traveling in a beat-up auto which breaks down. Clutching their cases of beer and their surfboards, the lads hitch a ride with an evil-faced local (Damien Garvey) who looks like a refugee from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Most of the ensemble enter into the spirit of pic with confidence and a sense of fun, though Roy overplays the sheltered innocence of the rather annoying Freda. Priestley and Cotton are especially funny as the out-of-their-depth country boys, and Gower is terrific as the vengeful Jillian.
First-time feature director Evan Clarry keeps the separate strands bubbling along most satisfactorily, and uses split screen effects more successfully than at any time since the heyday of Stanley Donen (or Richard Fleischer’s “The Boston Strangler,” his acknowledged influence). It’s a pity, then, that the film looks so ugly; the Digital Intermediate Process used (shooting on film, cutting on video, and then using a laser burn transfer onto 35m negative) results in an unhealthy orange hue, and pic has all the hallmarks of a very poor video transfer.
Apart from this major defect, technical credits are OK given the evidently tiny budget available, and the non-stop songs will be an added inducement for the target audience.