Saturday, 23 January 2010

Affairs Are Much More Exciting Than Marriages.

Heavenly Creatures was not Peter Jackson's debut, far from it, but it is probably the film that first had him noticed largely on a global scale, and netted him (and his wife, Fran Walsh) his first Oscar nomination (of eight in total, with three wins for the last Lord Of The Rings pic) for Best Original Screenplay.

It was, however, the inimitable Kate Winslet's first film, and what a debut it was, considering in the 15 years following the film she was nominated for six Oscars and won one. Winslet plays the part of Juliet Hulme in this true story of a horrible murder in New Zealand in the 50s. Juliet is a teenager recently relocated to a Christchurch school after spending a number of years abroad with her family. She is partnered in art class with Pauline (Melanie Lynskey), an outcast, and they instantly become friends. Juliet takes Pauline in a rich fantasy world, which Pauline relishes as an escape. The girls quickly embark on a relationship apparently deeper than platonic, and it is decided by Juliet's parents that, with her father relocating back to the UK and considering Juliet has recently spent some months in hospital with TB, Juliet should go to live with family in South Africa. Meanwhile, Pauline's parents are in the process of divorcing, and the two girls concoct a plan that they may stay together, with tragic and infamous consequences for Pauline's mother Honora (Sarah Peirse.) I won't say what those consequences are in case you are somehow unfamiliar with either the film or the case.

Winslet and Lynskey (who has since gone on to fame with Two And A Half Men and a role in Up In The Air) both give auspicious performances. Winslet's especially garnered much acclaim, and the two sides of her character portrayed (the outwardly confident teenage imaginer and the dark and depressed internal demon) are pitch perfect. It's worth noting that a year after this debut she picked up her first Oscar nod for Sense And Sensibility. Allun Bollinger (who also shot The Frighteners and 2nd Unit on the LOTR trilogy for Peter Jackson) presents the film beautifully, with the setting rendered extremely well by the designers in all fields, mixing real scenery with heightened fantasy seamlessly.

Jackson himself shows off the style that got him noticed in schlock pictures such as Braindead and Bad Taste, retro horror gore stylings, but reigns them in enough such that the film is simply given a very unique look and feel, plays differently to a perfectly straight representation of a story that would be very interesting in itself. His touch lifts it that little bit higher, giving the film an edge that draws you in.

A solid breakout for Jackson and some terrific first-time performances make this a 4 star film.

1 comment:

  1. Believe it or not, this was my favourite movie when I was a kid :)
    The plot, the performances (not just Kate and Lynskey) are all amazing. The movie is strangely hypnotic, you just can't stop watching it, and thinking about it. It stands side by side with another of my favourite Australian movies - MURRIEL'S WEDDING, which launched another breathtaking actress - Toni Collette.