An intriguing premise — an unofficial reworking of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Teorema” in an Aussie setting — starts promisingly, then misses its target in this unfulfilled pic. Sandra Bernhard’s name and rep will help get initial sales , but mixed critical reaction must be taken into account. Vid sales look more promising.
Bernhard, in good, sassy form, plays Dallas Adair, a consultant brought to Australia to advise on a new golf course project. On the plane from L.A., she coincidentally meets Charlie Sommers (Jake Blundell), son of Stephen Sommers (Frank Gallacher), one of her sponsors. The two strike up a friendship when there’s a near crash landing, and Dallas moves into the Sommers’ bourgeois home, which also includes Stephen’s frustrated wife, Rosalind (Victoria Longley), and their bright teen daughter, Rastus (Rose Byrne), who’s a UFO freak.
Like the mystery character played by Terence Stamp in Pasolini’s film, Dallas proceeds to seduce members of the Sommers family one by one, excluding Rastus, who loathes her from the start. Charlie spies on her undressing, then loses his virginity to her; Stephen commits adultery with her; finally, Rosalind escapes her hidebound existence by venturing for the first time into gay sex with her.
Pic may sound steamy, but, under the direction of screenwriter Ann Turner, is quite restrained. Turner, who previously directed the interesting “Celia” and the less successful “Hammers Over the Anvil,” has come up with a lovely idea, and the leading role is cleverly cast, but the helmer drops the ball about halfway through. Scenes involving Japanese participation in the golf course and an apparent UFO landing — which may be connected to Dallas — come across as irrelevant to the main storyline when they surely should have been integral to the presumed theme of outside forces molding Aussie lives on both a personal and national level.
Pic had a reportedly troubled production history, which unfortunately shows in the ragged second half, in which all the threads and themes so tantalizingly introduced earlier fail to come together satisfactorily. This is a pity, because when the film does work, its blend of sensuality and sardonic humor is strikingly effective.
Bernhard is sleek and quite sexy as Dallas, though Blundell hardly convinces as a virginal teenager in the early scenes. Pic’s best performance comes from the always reliable Longley, who enacts the discovery of sexual gratification with genuine style.
Technical credits are pro, except for the somewhat cheesy UFO sequence.