Panel vans, drive-ins, friendship rings & surfie beads. The ultimate coming-of-age film “Puberty Blues” is back. Based on the novel by the same name, written by the infamous Salami Sisters, namely Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, “Puberty Blues” traces the adventures of Debbie (Nell Schofield) and her life-long companion Sue (Jad Capelja). Two teenagers are desperately trying to break into the “in” group who dominate Greenhill Beach. Once they are accepted into the group, they realise that the laid-back, ultra-cool façade is just that: a glossy cover-up. As they fall into all of the group’s vices, including drug-usage and casual sex, they willingly present themselves to the males of the group as virtual slaves, ready to serve their pre-chosen lover’s every need. Soon though, the girls grow tired of playing the victim role, and they work to regain respect and equality. From the Academy Award Winning Australian Director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”, “The Club”, “Barry McKenzie” & “Black Robe”), “Puberty Blues” is the ultimate Australian beach classic.
1981 – Certificate: M – Australian Film
7.0 out of 10
As you should already know, I’ve recently become a fully fledged Pavement Warrior, in recognition of my bravery in standing up to greedy, urban footpath-hogging bastards. Just because this is an entirely self-administered qualification, shouldn’t reduce its significance. Indeed, as I’m the only Pavement Warrior in existence, it does in fact make the award all the more special. As part of my walk to and from work, I have to pass the planet-sized Tesco store on the Oxford Road in Reading. Behind the store is its car park, a car park so big that the other side of it is hidden by the curvature of the Earth. I have little choice but to cross this expanse of tarmac on my journey, corner to corner. Given its lack of surface features I need to navigate by compass; the tarmac interferes with GPS signals by destabilising the Earth’s magnetic field, as its metallic components combine with a thousand lost Smartphone signals to set up a sort of virtual Faraday Cage. Many a time I’ve come across lost shoppers, wondering hopelessly amongst the endless rectangular parking bays, surviving on the remains of their shopping, desperate to locate their cars before they starve to death; (which is somewhat ironic given the nature of Tesco’s core business). In winter I battle hurricane force winds and horizontal rain; whilst in summer baking hot temperatures and sunlight reflected from the ground, test me to my physical and mental limits. Now, you know those films where heroes walk out to their aircraft, before flying off to almost certain death? I’m thinking of “Battle of Britain” or Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”. (Except in the “Battle of Britain” they always ran to their aircraft and they were genuine heroes, whilst Tom Cruise swaggered to his jet like the overpaid Hollywood actor he is.) Well today in the Tesco car park I saw something very similar. Two guys were slowly walking out across the barren tarmac, their hair blowing in the summer wind, dressed in their Tesco high-vis jackets. They were going to their home delivery vans. I knew they were about to go ‘out there’ alone, face unknown horrors*, deliver their payloads and if lucky, God willing, return safely again. (*Such as ignorant home-shoppers who don’t even help them carry the bags from the vans to their kitchen tables, because they paid a few pounds for the privilege of having someone else do their shopping for them and expect to treat the delivery guys like their personal slaves for five minutes.) As they started their engines and drove slowly out of sight, I felt quite humbled and I’m not ashamed to admit it bought a lump to my throat. Home delivery drivers are the new heroes! This film has two heroes of its own.
Made in 1981, this movie is a nearly random slice of life in what I guessed passed for teenage normality in Australia around that time in the sort of place it features. This appeared to consist of thoughtless guys on surfboards who just put up with girls so they could have sex, (or root them as they tended to put it); and stupid young women who went along with this. It has all the normal stuff you’d expect, late periods, drug overdoses, drinking too much, ‘condom problems’, parental confusion, an ‘in-crowd’, drive-ins, ‘growing-up’, etc. This is an unusual film, in that it’s pretty boring but weirdly compelling too. For some reason Debbie reminded me of Wayne Rooney. (Facially at least; I doubt Rooney’s body looks like hers in a bikini.)
I hated the theme tune. Strangely it fitted the move well, but it was a dreadful dirge of the worst kind. However, I did rather like the version of Split Enz’s “Nobody Takes Me Seriously” that plays over the ‘climatic scene’ near the end of the movie.
Recommended for surfers, Australians, fans of Australian school uniforms (like they used to wear in “Neighbours”) and Wayne Rooney haters.
1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. A lovely black cat makes an appearance in a bedroom scene. (No, not ‘that’ sort of bedroom scene). It provides a master-class in how to lay on a bed and look cute.
Top badass moment? After 77 minutes of film-time living in the gender stone-age, Debbie and Sue finally realise that they can be something more. Overcoming a lifetime of stereotyping has got to hard-core badass.