2015 / Director. Shawn Seet.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
PETER ALLEN: NOT THE BOY NEXT DOOR is one of those lump-in-your-throat movies (I swear, there's a lot of pollen in the air) and when I turned to my partner during the credit roll she was a blubbering mess. Yep, it tugs at the heart strings and does a number on its audience.
Of course it is the biopic detailing the life of Australian superstar Peter Allen. From his early and tragic childhood through to his marriage to Liza Minelli, all the way to his untimely death... it covers a lot of ground and does so in a compelling and emotionally charged way. Director Shawn Seet and the writers took Allen's well known story and adapted it into a melodrama that showcases some of his most celebrated music and pieces together his life in a respectful and engaging testimony. If you've seen the stage show THE BOY FROM OZ or are simply a fan of Allen's then you will know his story well. This made for television film does it justice and showcases some fantastic performances.
Each and every player captures the true essence of their real-life counterparts. Allen is portrayed by a relatively unknown actor by the name of Joel Jackson. He immerses himself in the role and, at times, is an uncanny reflection. His screen presence is dynamic and enchanting and viewers would be foolish not to fall head over heels for him (he deserves whatever local awards are afforded him). Rebecca Gibney plays his ever devoted mother who stuck by her boy through it all. Their relationship was one for the records and the dynamic between them on screen is stunning. Gibney continues to be one of Australia's most under-appreciated actresses (always present, rarely applauded). The support cast includes Sigrid Thornton as Judy Garland, Sara West as Liza Minelli and Rob Mills as Chris Bell. All are great and extra weight to the story. I should also mention that I was over the moon to see Henry Szeps on screen again, playing Allen's trustworthy manager Dee Anthony (some of you will recall Szeps as brother Robbie on MOTHER AND SON).
The production value is mostly good with the 1950's era being represented particularly well. Shot somewhere in rural New South Wales, the area they featured was perfectly chosen and with wonderful areal shots of the township, it looks to be a community trapped in time. There are a few sub-standard green screen location backdrops and a lazy inclusion of the Sydney opera house at a time before it was actually built... but these are irrelevant hiccups when the story is told with such bravado and passion.
Peter Allen was a one-of-a-kind performer whose stamp on his home country of Australia is unmistakable. He gave us an unofficial national anthem and wore his home-pride on his sleeve for the world to see.