It was inspired by the story of "Lawnchair Larry" (Larry Walters).
Danny Morgan (Ifans) works as a concrete maker driver and construction worker who lives in a big Australian city with his girlfriend but is unhappy with his life. Danny yearns for the simple life while girlfriend Trudy (Clarke) fantasizes about bright lights and fast times. While Danny plans for their annual camping trip, Trudy tells him she has to work, so the trip is off. In reality, Trudy is using her work connections at a local real estate agency to set up a meeting with a handsome local sports reporter, Sandy Upman (Muldoon). Danny sees them together while he's shopping for a weekend barbecue, leaving him even more disenchanted with their relationship.
During the barbecue in his backyard, Danny, being an inventive character, ties a bunch of helium-filled balloons to his deckchair as his friends hold him down. When they inadvertently let go, Danny is set on an airborne adventure across Australia, which causes him to become a national sensation. As he floats over idyllically beautiful rural landscapes, totally foreign to the concrete structures of his discontent, he appears on the verge of some enlightenment. After he's beaten up in a rugged ride through a thunderstorm, fireworks from a small town's macadamia festival burst his balloons. Danny lands in a tree in Glenda's front yard as the remnants of his chair float away.
Glenda (Otto), who was watching the fireworks from her front porch, sees Danny fall into the tree but doesn't see the deckchair. As firemen and townsfolk arrive to find out if the fireball caused any damage, they see Glenda helping a disheveled Danny. Glenda tells them that Danny is an old professor from college days and takes him into her house, which belonged to her parents. As he recovers from the harrowing end to his journey, the lonely Glenda, fascinated by the strapping Danny, doesn't press him about his past. Danny doesn't help matters by offering only vague explanations about his origins and unorthodox arrival in the town of Clarence.
As Danny explores the town, Glenda's friends wonder about their past relationship, but they are quickly won over by Danny's whimsical ways. This was easy to accomplish as Glenda's friends are just happy to see that the withdrawn, and sometimes depised, traffic officer is with someone special. Using his easy-going manner, Danny persuades Glenda to dress-up and go with him to the harvest ball. She gives him some nice clothes (formerly her father's) to wear to the ball. After Danny looks in the mirror, he shaves his beard and trims his hair. At the ball and around town, Danny's mysterious past, detached demeanour and off-the-wall ideas make him an instant hit with the townsfolk. His ideas that were considered hair-brained in the big city seem fresh in the small town of Clarence, and he is hired to become the manager of an aspiring politician's campaign. As they spend time together at Glenda's house, Danny finds her father's old motorcycle, which for sentimental reasons Glenda keeps in the shed. After she shows Danny pictures of her parents on the motorcycle exploring the country, Danny fixes up the old motorcycle when Glenda is at work.
All the while, the big city media can't get enough coverage of Danny's disappearance, constantly broadcasting interviews of his friends, family and co-workers. Trudy takes up with the sports reporter (Muldoon), who sees covering Danny's story and Trudy's suffering as a way to the top.
Back in Clarence, Danny is forging a deep connection with Glenda. But their budding relationship is not viewed by everyone in town as all peaches-and-cream. Their flirtations arouse jealousy and suspicion in Glenda's male co-worker, the town's police supervisor, who busts them for speeding when they take Glenda's motorcycle out for a ride. But nothing fazes Danny as he continues to immerse himself in his ideal world. He even goes so far as to give a stirring speech at a political rally, and he is asked by some of the townsfolk to run for office.
All caught up in the dizzying events surrounding the political rally, Glenda and Danny spend the night together. He wakes reveling in his new soul-mate, gets dressed in a haze of happiness and steps outside onto Glenda's porch to greet the dawn of his perfect new life. However, local kids have found and reported the deck chair causing Danny's past to come crashing down upon him in a torrent of media frenzy.
As a shocked Glenda emerges from her house to see what all the noise is about, she spots Danny running down the street with a crowd in hot pursuit. Just then, Trudy and Upman drop down in a news helicopter and land in the street in front of Glenda's yard, stopping Danny dead in his tracks. Trudy reclaims Danny amidst an explosion of camera flashes to take him back to the big city, where she can bask in his new-found fame. As his half-truths become uncovered in the stark light of media exposure, Glenda rails against Danny as he's whisked away.
Although she is angry at being deceived by Danny, his departure brings Glenda to the stark realization that she has been deceiving herself as well. She finally admits to herself that her life is at a dead end and she decides it's time for a change.
Meanwhile, unhappily plugged back into his old job and with Trudy trying to capitalize on his fame, the deep changes within Danny that happened in Clarence make city life all the more unbearable. Danny confronts Trudy, tells her it's over and uses the connections his media storm have forged to get on a military plane to win Glenda back.
Back in Clarence, Glenda has finished packing up her motorcycle and is saying goodbye to her friends. Just then, Danny parachutes out of the plane over Clarence and crash-lands in the tree in front of Glenda's house as she's starting to leave on her motorcycle.
At first, Glenda appears excited to see Danny; but immediately she starts yelling that he can't just drop in and everything will be all right. Glenda resolutely drives off before Danny can convince her how much he needs her and his new life in the town of Clarence. Dragging his parachute, Danny runs after her, shouting that he'll do whatever it takes to get back together. As she drives away, Danny's parachute cord gets caught on the back of the motorcycle and he is lifted into the air. As Glenda glances into her mirror for one last look at her old life, she notices Danny flying behind her and stops the bike. As he comes down, Danny and Glenda get entangled in the parachute, wordlessly embrace and kiss.
As the movie ends, Danny and Glenda, in their bathrobes, symbolically float upward in deck chairs as they talk about their future plans.Rhys Ifans as Danny Morgan
Miranda Otto as Glenda Lake
Justine Clarke as Trudy Dunphy
Rhys Muldoon as Sandy Upman
Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards - 2003 Best Supporting Actor (Justine Clarke)
Paris Film Festival - Grand Prix 2004 (Jeff Balsmeyer)
Danny Deckchair grossed $1,050,383 at the box office in Australia.