Set in Sydney, Australia, in an early 1980s world of parties, live music, casual sex, unemployment, drink, drugs, wankers, posers and spongers, a group of 20-something girls decide to give their best friend, Karli (Tracy Mann), a wild boozy night she’ll never forget before she heads to New York and their close-knit group breaks up.
Karli shares a house in inner-city Newtown with Jane, Jackie, Ellen and Shadow (Ian Gilmour).
Tough, sophisticated nurse Jackie (Julie Barry) is contemplating prostitution as a solution to her financial woes; likeable loud-mouthed good-time-girl Jane (Vera Plevnik) is an alcoholic (who wears a T-shirt proclaiming, “If I can’t be free I can be cheap”), and the slightly daggy Ellen (Moira MacLaine-Cross) is out of work, and rapidly losing her street naivety.
Karli is leaving tomorrow to start a new life in the Big Apple, and her father (Ralph Cotterill) – portrayed as a comfortable trendy of a now-mainstream 1960s hippie generation – has given her a plane ticket to the States and $3,000.
As Karli’s farewell night progresses through the streets of Sydney, the money is stolen by one of her more desperate friends – cough-mixture addict Michael (Esben Storm) – as the group moves from Leichhardt pub to Newtown party, to the Manzil Room at Kings Cross and crashing on the beach at Bondi.
The narrative becomes more feverish and unreal as the night moves on, like a kind of inner-city Midsummer Night’s Dream where characters quarrel, sleep with unlikely people, and become argumentative, devious, and drugged; alternating between self-delusion and inspired perception. Hugh Keays-Byrne appears in a couple of scenes as a kind of hairy Puck.
Morning brings the group of friends (and money) back together at Mascot airport. They remain a bedraggled, hungover, but still cohesive unit, asking each other, “what the hell happened last night?”
The characters are often repellant but the viewer always cares for them; good, bad, strong and weak are scrambled; and at different times during the long night, each of Going Down‘s city people becomes each of these things. The film ultimately says that slight schizophrenia is natural to day-to-day survival in the inner city.
Light relief comes from the whacky bespectacled Greg (David Argue), who spends much of Karli’s last night in Sydney on a pair of roller skates. He and Ellen met at the local dole office (where he works as a clerk) just as he was being tossed over the counter by a disgruntled client, and it was love at first sight. Argue also plays a junkie drag queen called Trixie.
The low-budget film was made for about $300,000 and took six years to reach the screen. A superb soundtrack of Aussie new wave music features The Birthday Party, Dynamic Hepnotics, Pel Mel, The New Christs and Australian Crawl (who appear in the credits as The Park Rats rather than under their own name)
Shortly before filming was completed, 27-year-old Vera Plevnik was killed in a car accident while on the way to Melbourne for a family visit. The final footage had to be shot using a double for her scenes.
Two weeks later, the second assistant director, Chris Maudson, died suddenly of a brain tumour, aged 36.
Hotel night manager
Trendy at party
Steve J. Spears
Early Morning Drunk