It’s always party time Don-Under

Don’s Party (1976, Double Head Productions)

In a Nutshell : Men want sex and women are complicated. It’s 1970s Straya through beer-goggles.

The Baby-Boomers are more than a little different to the generations following in their footsteps. With core values like feminism and political connectedness guiding us through the challenges of modern Australia, it’s hard to imagine that one single identity could possibly encompass the values of an entire generation. The Boomers got closest to this identity with the Larrikin; the true-blue, colourful character that speaks his mind. Don’s Party pays tribute to the Larrikin identity within a proper, suburban ’70s culture.

Don’s Party is a lifeboat for five couples during the tense turn-over period of the Labour-winning federal election of 1969. With the first taboo of conversation on the table, we meet Don (John Hargreaves) as he makes the run to the ballot box and the beer-run on the way home. His mates and their wives happen to be a great microcosm of diverse characters — go figure. Aussie icon Graeme Kennedy is Mark, the inebriated divorcee and part-time pornographer, that steals most of the best lines of the film. Graeme Blundell is the other hot favourite as Simone — much the same shy, innocent conservative that defined his sexual journey in Alvin Purple (1973).

The streak of the larrikin runs through most of the husbands (Simone excluded), chasing the lust of teenage desire. As the plot unfolds however, this becomes their downfall against a backdrop of strong, complicated and witty wives that have just about had enough of it all. The gender divide here is spectacular, as Don and his mates drink and bask in constant marital infidelities, the wives and girlfriends of the film are engaged in this unspoken debate over Australia’s social response to the sex revolution sweeping over Australia. Pat Bishop as Jenny gives us the most heartfelt performance of a wife trapped within a dwindling marriage to Mal (Ray Barret). Her and Kath’s (Jeanie Drynan) opposition to polygamy makes them the polar opposites of Kerry and Susan (Candy Raymond and Clare Binney). They take the men’s obsession in their stride, getting some on the side and kneeing the creeps in the balls. As much as you feel for the monogamous women, Kerry carries such assertion and sexy confidence in her portrayal that she seems to tears-down the male domination of the sexual revolution single-handedly. These aren’t all redeeming arguments against the misogyny of Don’s, but they do put the power of the sex revolution in a fuller context, empowerment and marriage-strain facing off with wicked bitchiness. That said, Susan is still stripped naked and thrown in a pool with her only words of protest being `oi, you dirty bugger!’

This film is naughty, funny and undoubtedly attached to our social culture today through the heart of the larrikin beating in it’s male characters. I see it in my work’s break room all the time, listening to both genders of the over 40 year olds getting on through sexual innuendos and dodging political correctness with all due respect. As our values don’t align anymore, we probably aren’t going to see this identity of Aussie culture reflected in our films in the near future. But it is still a part of Aussie culture; the true-blue character among us. No matter what kind of moral lens we choose to apply to it, the characteristics of larrikinism is the core of this film, bundled with copious marital problems and reminiscent drinking. Definitely watch with mates over a few tinnies (as long as full frontal doesn’t phase anyone).


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