Curiously, there are now two feature films titled Palm Beach, both named for the same upmarket suburb in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The first, made in 1979 by the late avant-gardist Albie Thoms, is a ragged detective story improvised from Thoms' outline by an ensemble cast. The new Palm Beach is a much more conventionally polished comedy–drama, directed by the actress turned director Rachel Ward, who co-wrote the screenplay with the playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.
While the new Palm Beach is not a remake of its predecessor, the two have a few things in common, even beyond the title and central location. Both feature aerial shots in which the camera swoops along the same beaches to the same mushroom-shaped headland; both unfold over the course of a weekend, and depict the reunion of old friends; and both star Bryan Brown, who has been married to Ward since 1983, and who could presumably shed light on this mystery if anyone can.
Moreover, the two films could be described as snapshots of the same baby-boomer generation forty years apart. Ward’s underscores this with a soundtrack resembling the playlist of a local golden oldies radio station (starting, inevitably, with ‘Friday On My Mind’). While Thoms mourned the loss of an egalitarian, countercultural dream, Ward is content to celebrate the haves without giving much thought to the have-nots – to the point of frankly describing the film to journalists as ‘aspirational’.