Brown puts on seniors hat for Aussie movie role
WELCOME! "Come on in and join the party," says Bryan Brown.
The backdrop is a glorious Sydney summer day of sparkling blue water and crystal clear skies. The lunch table is piled high with a sumptuous feast.
The guests are arriving to celebrate a significant birthday. They're boisterous, full of energy and excitement at being reunited after a long time apart.
While you're not actually seated at the table, but rather sitting in a cinema, you feel as though you are in fact there in person as the 11 guests gather round the table, anticipating a weekend of shared memories and new connections.
"I made it for you," Brown, 72, said of his role as the co-producer.
"It was made like, let's put a movie out there that my age group can relate to."
While his wife Rachel Ward was the director, Brown said she had no choice in casting him in the lead role.
"I own the movie. I asked her to direct it," he laughed.
Let me introduce you to the Palm Beach guests.
There's Frank, played by Brown. The quintessential Australian actor is the linchpin of the movie. He's retired, depressed and living a complicated life.
"That's what we are facing out there," Brown said.
"People who are retired or sell their business and they have been active all their lives. It's like: 'What will I do? I'm lost. I have no purpose'."
His wife of 30 years, Charlotte (Greta Scacchi), is trying to deal with menopause.
Friend and musician Billy (Richard E Grant) is struggling with a life of professional failure, while his actress wife Eva (Heather Mitchell) is now only being offered grandmother roles.
Another friend, journalist Leo (Sam Neill), has health problems and his wife Bridget (Jacqueline McKenzie) is trying to work out if Leo is planning on leaving her and her daughter Caitlyn (Frances Berry).
Frank and Charlotte are two different characters.
Their daughter Ella (Matilda Brown) is a successful doctor, while son Dan (Charlie Vickers) is struggling to find his way in life and isn't being helped by Frank's high expectations on what that way should be.
Joining them is Holly (Claire Van Der Boom), the daughter of their old band's singer Roxy.
The buddying young singer is also struggling to find her way and has brought along a surprising new playmate, sheep farmer Doug (Aaron Jeffery).
The three-day party has all the hallmarks of a fabulously relaxed, liquid, long weekend - until the veneer is scratched. Deep secrets emerge that drive the friendships, and partners, away from each other.
So many of the conversations in Palm Beach resonate with me as a viewer.
Each of the characters are realistic, their stories drawing out the challenges of changing times and dealing with ageing.
Think back to when you have attended a reunion of old friends. How often has the conversation delved deep into the past and at other times skirted the realities of your shared experiences?
"I had gone through a period of anxiety and seen a psychologist about it as I didn't know what the hell was happening to me," said Brown, who was roughly 65 at the time of such a reunion.
"It was during that period leading up to a Christmas that I had together with some other men.
"One had lost his job and one had sold his business.
"Of those characters, none necessarily reflect things that I might be dealing with now, but I can recognise in those characters there...
"Take Richard Grant's character - a musician at his age, they're all going to the young guys for music, he's doing diaper ads.
"You know, I have mates that are older actors that would love to be acting, but there aren't roles for them. I am aware around me of people who are going through the same things that are in the movie"
Brown said his children totally understood the issues the older actors reveal in Palm Beach.
Two of them were involved in the movie - actress Matilda, who he has worked with several times previously, and graphic artist Joe.
"They have always mixed with older people," he said.
"They have seen relationships break up; they understand how painful they are and how real they are."
When Brown turned 70, Matilda observed in her father that age was just a number - it's more about how you live your life.
He's now a grandfather to Matilda's nine-week-old son Zan.
"I'm handling it pretty good," the veteran actor said.
"I am still doing things and still looking for things to do, and people are silly enough to still ask me to do things."
Brown's next acting project is the second series of Bloom for Stan. He'd like to do more movies around seniors as he sees many more stories to be told.
As he heads out to go surfing, walking, doing thrice-weekly pilates classes, and belatedly wearing a sun hat, he says: "I am not aware that I am getting older. Except when I watch Palm Beach and realise that I am".
Brown said he had never let age determine what he did.
"We have got to find a way to step around that as a generation," he said.
"It's not the major working force. We have got to find a way... of still being a force and looking for things that interest us and keep us very much alive."
The movie beautifully raises contemporary seniors issues as relationships are tested, dissolved and somehow reunited.
"It's a story about us getting through things and that there is plenty of life in front of us to enjoy," Brown said.
Palm Beach is in cinemas this month.