Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival
Back in the late 90s, there was a huge boom for comedies about teenagers behaving badly while also being kind of charming. Films like She’s All That, American Pie… basically, everything that would eventually be parodied by Not Another Teen Movie. It was this huge thing and these films were massive, to the point where their parody literally gave us Captain America. Of course, it’s been so long since this kind of comedy was a big thing that it feels like no one does it anymore… so thank god for Sweethurt bringing back that classic feeling.
Sweethurt begins rather sadly, with Jacob’s (Rav Ratnayake) grandad passing away, meaning someone needs to go make sure his affairs are in order. Jacob volunteers and takes along a bunch of his friends, including his best mate Mike (Mehdy Salameh), his good mate Drew (Logan Webster) and Abby (Sam Germain) who has an incredibly strong and creepy crush on Drew. Things should be going well except it’s soon apparent that Jacob has another non-grandad related reason for this trip… namely trying to reunite with his ex-girlfriend Olivia (Alannah Robertson).
Meanwhile, in this same little town, Skye (Tyra Cartledge) had just gone through a bad breakup of her own and her best friend Carly (Rhiaan Marquez) has decided it’s time for Skye to get out there and have a night out. That night out might be a little weird, might involve meeting some bad guys and also a pirate but at least it’ll hopefully help Skye move on… oh, also at some point in the movie there’s a goat named Wynston because why the hell wouldn’t there be a goat named Wynston in this film?
Sweethurt is so absolutely committed to recreating the classic 90s comedy style that it’s honestly impressive. They have nailed so many of the tropes of the genre and play them so well you would think this script was just written right around that time and only recently rediscovered like some lost artifact. It’s so completely committed to recreating that era that there are two Third Eye Blind songs on the soundtrack, which feels like the only music that movies like this used back then. It’s incredibly familiar, to the point where I would want to call it a ripoff… but Sweethurt is smarter than that.
The magic trick that Sweethurt pulls off is that, while it’s absolutely referencing late 90s era teen comedies… it’s made in the 2020 era, the era where we know that a guy tracking a girl across the country in order to accidentally run into her is kind of creepy and that most romcom tropes are actually kind of terrifying. It modernises the parts of that genre that aged poorly and uses them to get some of the biggest laughs of the film, while still keeping that irreverent sense of wicked fun and adult humour that the films it’s referencing did so well.
Sweethurt has the benefit of a cast that just goes for broke and knows the tropes they’re meant to be playing. Jacob is meant to be the charming and kind lead while Mark is meant to be a bit like Stifler and Mike is clearly the comedic punching bag. If you’ve ever seen any of the films that were trying to coast on the wave created by American Pie, you’ve seen all these characters before and they work wonderfully here.
While you may have seen these characters and some of these tropes before, they’ve been updated to make them work better with a more modern audience. There are still some boundary-pushing jokes (indeed, the last big visual joke of the film is probably more shocking than anything done in the films that influenced this one, but it’s also goddamn hilarious) but it never feels mean about it.
What also helps Sweethurt is that soundtrack, which just sends the audience right back to an era where every film had to open with a heavy drum beat and some 30 somethings singing about how their dads didn’t hug them when they were children… it’s pure nostalgia bait in the best possible way, and it absolutely works with this kind of film. Hell, that loud drumbeat popping up randomly is possibly the only kind of soundtrack one could want in this kind of film.
If you’re looking for a modern update on the young adult comedies of the late 90s-early 2000s then Sweethurt is what you’ve been waiting for. Equal parts funny, charming and nostalgic, it’s the kind of film that you didn’t know you needed to have in your life until you see it.