Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door (2015) 

Peter Allen’s life has been the subject of a documentary, a Broadway musical and this mini-series. Not bad for a country boy who, by his own admission, was a second-rate singer, dancer and pianist. But he sure could put over a song, and he was a dab hand at writing them as well.

Screened over two nights, the first half of this biopic deals with Allen’s formative years, from troubled childhood to marriage, while the second half focuses on his song-writing and eventual battle with AIDS. Told sequentially, Allen is guided through his life by the ghost of Judy Garland, who appears not so much at key milestones but whenever there’s an opportunity to drop a barbed line.

In this role, veteran of the Australian screen Sigrid Thorton proves to be as much a revelation as the two newcomers who share the lead role. Ky Baldwin is most engaging as an irrepressible young Peter Woolnough, and Joel Jackson excels as the equally vivacious adult Peter Allen. Much fun is had witnessing the frustration of those who try to ‘de-fruit’ the entertainer, imploring him to be less expressive with his hands, his hips… his everything! Yet while Allen’s exuberant flamboyance is accurately conveyed, this biopic depicts his sexuality in a refreshingly matter-of-fact manner. 

 

Also handled sensitively is Allen's relationship with Liza Minnelli. Whereas her vocals, and those of Judy, are passably provided by other performers, Joel Jackson proves himself a triple-threat. Though emulating the quality of Allen’s singing and dancing may not have too demanding, Jackson’s overall performance is nothing less than first-rate.

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Peter Allen did not mouth the words "I love you mum" during his acceptance speech at the Oscars.

Though biopic features most of the hits from Allen’s songbook, his Academy Award winning song from Arthur (1981) is only fleetingly mentioned.

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