The basic thriller usually stays in its tight little confines - it vies with others in the genre for the most shocks and twists, leaving its characters as cardboard playthings. Sometimes though, as in the case of Envy (screened at the 2000 Boston Film Festival), the thrills are really a catalyst for something bigger. Director Julie Money's Australian feature veers slightly around the same old stuff and creates an interesting and new mix of character study, role reversal, and sexual politics.

The story is basic, but its presentation is tantalizingly off-kilter. Envy opens with a fragment from a scene that doesn't appear fully until the film's climax, a device reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh's The Limey. It whets the appetite, draws a little confusion, and sets up the possibility for unconventional storytelling. It's simple: A girl sits in a mall food court, looks at the camera, and then leaves.

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