Sexy and spirited, this endearingly funny comedy has captivated moviegoers everywhere! The charming Hugh Grant plays an idealistic young minister on a mission. He must tame the wicked ways of a notorious artist whose nude paintings of his beautiful models scandalize the nation! Intent on delivering salvation, the repressed reverend and his wife instead are led into temptation by their playfully seductive hosts and sensuous new surroundings! Enchantingly sexy fun from beginning to end you too will find the allure of Sirens irresistible!
eyelights: Sam Neil. Hugh Grant. its discussions on morality and religion. the lovely women. the music.
eyesores: the acting ability of some of the models.
‘Sirens’ is a sexy Australian comedy from 1994, starring Hugh Grant, Sam Neil and Tara Fitzgerald. It tells the story of Reverend Anthony Campion (Grant), a British priest who is asked by the Bishop to convince controversial artist Norman Lindsay (Neil) to remove from an exhibition a painting that the Church feels is blasphemous. As it’s on his way to his new parish, he agrees to give it a try.
However, once at the defiantly earthy Lindsay residence, he discovers that the artist is far more tenacious than he ever would have imagined, countering every possible argument with his own brand of logic. Meanwhile, his reserved wife, Estella (Fitzgerald), begins to struggle with the feelings and desires that these sensual surroundings, and its bawdy residents, are awakening in her.
As it turns out, the good Reverend has his work cut out for him.
I don’t exactly remember when I saw ‘Sirens’ first, but I saw it as quickly as I could: at the very latest, I would have seen it in 1996, when my local library picked it up on laserdisc. But I may have seen it at the local art house cinema: I seem to recall that they played the trailer for it one evening, and that it was rather enticing. I was seeing all sorts of yummy movies there (ex: ‘Ai no Korīda‘), so I might be confused.
The fact remains that, after reading that Elle MacPherson made quite an impression in it, I was sold on the notion and saw it as quickly as I could. I became an instant fan of the picture, and ended up watching it many times over through the years (and buying it on various formats). It was funny, playful, intellectual, bold and sexy. And it was filled with eye candy, in the form of Lindsay’s models.
Or most of them, anyway. You see, Lindsay used the rough Australian townies, and his own spouse, Rose (Pamela Rabe). But he also hired three lovely young women as life models: 1) Giddy, the blonde (Portia de Rossi), 2) Sheela, the brunette (Elle Macpherson), 3) Pru, the raven-haired (Kate Fischer). They are all naturally ravishing, angelic creatures with entirely distinct personalities.
Unfortunately, they’re not all convincing actresses: Macpherson is by far the worst of the lot, delivering her lines in a stilted manner. Fischer is decent, but it’s hard to say if her forceful performance is due to the character’s feistiness or to a lack of nuance. De Rossi is the one I’m most forgiving of now: while I found her slightly two-dimensional at the time, I now see that as part and parcel with Giddy’s personality.
Despite these reservations, the rest of the cast is superb: Hugh Grant is adroit in making Campion intelligent and proper, but corny enough to be funny; Tara Fitzgerald makes Estella mousy and repressed, but gives her hungry eyes; Sam Neil is superbly arrogant and self-assured as this fictional version of Lindsay; Pamela Rabe brings dignity to the Lindsay family, as his spouse and part-time model. Even the kids are terrific.
But what makes ‘Sirens’ truly worth seeing are the many discussion about religion and social mores – especially those between Lindsay and Campion. Lindsay defends his work with a (mostly) common-sense attitude, whereas Campion comes at it with faith as his guide. The clash between them remains polite, but the battle gathers much dust. Even some of the models contribute verbally – and through their actions.
The models also talk in a very raunchy manner, and they don’t shy away from this practice just because of the company they share: Estella is frequently left alone with them and sits there wide-eyed as they talk about all sorts of things she wouldn’t even think to herself. She is slowly drawn into these earthy expressions, culminating with a sequence in which all three of them tease and caress Giddy by the pond.
It was a beautiful sight, and there are many like it: the models are comfortable with their bodies and aren’t afraid to show them – as exemplified by the way they move and their various states of undress. Even Rose poses proudly. These images seep into Estella’s thoughts leading her to imagine the three naked models rising out of the pond at night to caress her floating body – a delicious scene to say the least.
And yet, for all the nudity, there isn’t much sex on screen – what there is of it remains off-screen. One exception is the scene in which Estella catches Devlin, the Lindsays’ hired hand, lying naked by the stream, stroking himself slowly. But that is quickly interrupted: Duigan obviously wasn’t planning to make a blue movie. He had other concerns: the place of women with respect to religion and sexuality.
Still, he certainly made the most of the female form (and as much as he could of the male one as well).
What completes the picture is its fantastical quality: Duigan decided to make many of the sequences look dreamy, nearly magical. There was this terrific scene when the models pretend to be fairies to amuse the children: they’re floating in the air in slow-motion, in a spectacular fashion – but they’re merely on swings and teeter-totters. Duigan impressed upon us the power of imagination over reality.
The score helps to create this effect. Rachel Portman combines more traditional backing with a playful theme, giving ‘Sirens’ both a classic and a fantastical quality. I’d even go so far as to say that the picture wouldn’t have nearly the same impact if not for the music, which becomes another character in the piece. Her choices were absolutely perfect in making this a light sensual romp.
I’m a big fan of ‘Sirens’. I appreciate the fine balance that it managed to strike between all its various elements, how it plays on so many levels: whether you want drama, comedy, romance, sharp dialogues, eye-candy, something smart, something sexy, a touch of realism or a sprinkle of fairy dust, this motion picture delivers on all these counts. It’s a hidden gem – and this is a shame; it deserves wider recognition.
After all, it serves up intellectual discourse, sensual feasts and magic. How could one not fall under its spell?.
Date of viewing: May 25, 2014