A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Although they are often charged with being emotionally distant, the British have produced more than their share of sexual outlaws, from Oscar Wilde to Aleister Crowley to D.H. Lawrence to Francis Bacon, to balance the ledger. The central figure in "Sirens" is perhaps vaguely inspired by another legendary British bohemian, Augustus John, an artist whose models and mistresses were interchangeable, and who delighted in scandal.
Named Norman Lindsay, the film's hero is played by Sam Neill as a notorious painter who lives on an estate in Australia where his art coexists side-by-side with an experiment in living. His free-wheeling lifestyle has attracted not only a extraordinarily open-minded wife, but also a group of models for whom clothing is often optional. They share his permissive views on sensuality.
Since one of the models is played by Elle MacPherson, the Sports Illustrated centerfold, and since Ms. MacPherson is featured in the advertising above the actual stars of the movie, you might understandably have the idea that "Sirens" is an exploitation film, or at least the sort of overwrought erotic melodrama Ken Russell became known for with "Women in Love" and "Listzomania." The movie does indeed feature much footage of MacPherson and her sister sirens in the nude, but it is smarter, more thoughtful and more good-tempered than you might expect.
The film, set between the wars, is seen mostly through the eyes of a shy Anglican clergyman named Anthony Campion (Hugh Grant), who has been asked by his bishop to look in on Lindsay during a visit to Australia. The painter is rumored to have painted a blasphemous portrait, and the bishop hopes perhaps a word to the wise will prevent a scandal. Campion and his wife Estella (Tara Fitzgerald) arrive at the painter's sprawling estate to find a warm welcome, a guest cottage of their own,and a very gradual seduction process under way.