this forgotten kylie minogue movie is like an australian pulp fiction for the rave generation
Revisiting the dragon tees and cargo pants of cult 2000 classic Sample People.
Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but the turn of the millennium gifted us with some of the most amazing and ridiculous party films of all time. From Kevin and Perry trying to lose their virginities in Ibiza, to the very entertaining 24 Hour Party People story of how the Hacienda nightclub and Factory Records label came into existence, to watching a friend group getting trashed over the course of a weekend in Human Traffic. The tail end of the infamous 90s rave scene, combined with the worldwide buzz for the incoming noughties, inspired filmmakers to both encapsulate and poke fun at the excitement surrounding British youth culture at the time.
Counterpart subcultures were simultaneously popping up around the globe and similar movies were being created in other continents to reflect their own origin scenes. In Australia, the LGBT dance venues and underground alternative scenes of Sydney were merging, with a little help from all the ecstasy knocking about and British leisure seekers making their way to the city via Ko Pha-ngan. Partying became a pretty big deal, it was ripe material for a filmmaker to latch onto and so, in the year 2000, Australia got its own rave culture film in the form of the Clinton Smith-directed, Kylie Minogue-starring Sample People.
Although Rotten Tomatoes dubs Sample People “an Australian Pulp Fiction for a rave generation”, it’s essentially their equivalent of Human Traffic. Kylie’s character, Jess, gets in trouble with her drug lord boyfriend (David Field) when he finds out about her romance with another guy. Simultaneously, Len (Nathan Page), who works at a falafel stand, tries to get out of work so that he can lust after his new crush that just so happens to be DJing at the night they’re all attending. Meanwhile, gangster wannabe Joey (Justin Rosniak) finds a gun and local musician Sem (Joel Edgerton) gets the heebie-jeebies over a paranoid vision that his girlfriend Cleo (Paula Arundell) might overdose -- before realising that she’s slept with genderqueer newcomer John (played by Ben Mendelsohn -- a definite favourite if you’re into dudes wearing goth makeup and coming out with all the zingers).
“It was a casting chess at a master level,” says actor Joel Edgerton, who barely remembers playing the rightfully paranoid Sem nearly two decades ago. “David Field, Simon Lyndon and obviously Ben Mendelsohn are all deeply respected in Australia. It was a cunning strategy of informing certain actors that others were signed on before they were. I joined because of the promise of other cast, not realising those mentioned had not actually confirmed but it got all of us together, for better or for worse”.
Though the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, stylistically it’s a Y2K dream. The dragon tees and cargo pants looks wouldn’t be out of place today in a collection by Instagram brands I Am Gia or UNIF. Even the guys’ wardrobes are as equally relevant now, with multiple characters decked out in Matrix-style eyewear. The backdrops include inflatable furniture and posters with alien motifs and 90s-style acid house graphics. Lush has her own sci-fi style brand, much like anyone with a Depop account. Kylie’s character has an edgy red haircut and wears culturally insensitive oriental dresses, that were unfortunately very of the time, and later in the film she dons hair jewellery reminiscent of styles first introduced to us in early Lizzie McGuire episodes.
Kylie was in the prime of her pop career when she did Sample People, and with acting experience from Neighbours and Bio-Dome, you would’ve thought that our queen had a bigger part to play. The second release cover heavily features the popstar and has the tagline ‘Sex, Drugs & Kylie’, with her name emblazoned multiple times across the design. Aside from the initial photoshoot scene where she plays a photographer, and a later few seconds driving a a car, you only ever really see Jess for a few moments. Her overall screen time can’t amass much more than 15 minutes, with absolutely no sign of her at any of the actual rave scenes. So to advertise her as the main character when she only ever reacts with a total of three other people is bizarre.
With her upcoming tour starting this month, we were unable to question Kylie herself on our new guilty pleasure that we truly can’t get out of our heads. For those not so secretly wishing to join in on the party themselves, on a film so underground that you can’t even watch the trailer online, Sample People is currently available to watch on YouTube or Google Play. Hard copies are available on Amazon, if you'd like some physical evidence of its existence.