Starring: John Hargraves, Jeanie Drynan, Graham Kennedy,
Director: Bruce Beresford
Distributor: Umbrella Entertainment/ Screensound Australia
Disappointment is the over arching mood of Don’s Party; disappointment in marriage, in career and, finally, in the Australian Federal election of October 25, 1969. After twenty years of conservative rule, ten friends gather in what producer Phillip Adams calls a “eucalyptic gulag” in Sydney’s middle class suburbia, to herald in what they hope will be a Labor victory but as the results come in and a defeat appears imminent, the celebratory tone deteriorates.
Cartons of Reschs are consumed by the blokes and flagons of wine lubricate the women until all of them are reduced to personal attacks on one other. Cooley (Harold Hopkins) confronts Don (John Hargraves) about his failure to write the great Australian novel then proceeds to skewer Mal (Ray Barrett) for not fulfilling his dream of becoming Prime Minister, all of them literally stripped naked following a skinny dip in the neighbour’s pool.
For seven odd years, the aspirations of these men have taken precedence over those of their wives – even childbirth has been put on hold for Don’s wife Kath (Jeanie Drynan). It’s a horribly bitter state of affairs. However, there are rumblings of feminism too; Kerrie (Candy Raymond) is a sexy, self-assured artist who is being lusted after by all the males but again, many of them will be disappointed – all but one; Cooley, the most uncouth, sexist, male chauvinist pig present. Surprisingly, she chooses him for a quickie and when confronted by her irate husband Evan (Kit Taylor), maintains her right to emotional independence. Then there’s Susan (Clare Binney), the 19 year-old nymphette who thinks all men are pigs yet enjoys sex with them as much as they do with her. It’s a purely chemical thing.
The film brims with bad language and crass jokes – a duck hunting gag performed by Graham Kennedy in his first film role as Mac being a low point. Writer David Williamson was convinced his original 1971 stage play would never pass the censorship board let alone make it to the big screen. Yet make it, it did and survives today as an anthropological document of Australian society taking one last, sad gasp of the dream that was the swinging ’60s.