Jan Chapman

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Bright Star Review


Essential
With a sumptuous attention to detail, lush photography and beautifully understated performances, Campion turns real events from the life of a poet into cinematic poetry. It may be too mopey for some audiences, but for others it's pure bliss.

In 1818 Hampstead, 23-year-old John Keats (Whishaw) is living with his lively friend Charles (Schneider) next door to the Brawne family: a quietly resolute mother (Fox), strong-willed 18-year-old Fanny (Cornish), younger brother Samuel (Brodie-Sangster) and little sister Toots (Martin). Initially sparring about art and poetry, John and Fanny begin to quietly fall for either other. But Fanny would never be allowed to marry a penniless poet, and John's health is deteriorating.

Continue reading: Bright Star Review

Somersault Review


OK
Despite its title, Cate Shortland's Somersault has no impressive feats of gymnastic ability in its 105 minutes. Instead, we are treated to another story of a young woman discovering both love and sexuality, while also learning the crucial differences between them. My Summer of Love, an impassioned, but wholly contrived film that debuted earlier this year, looked at these events in the face of a young lesbian (bisexual?) relationship. Shortland goes for the straight and narrow.

Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is a naïve teen who lives with her mom and her boyfriend. Before your mind starts flopping around in the gutter, no, the boyfriend does not molest her and he is not an abusive drunk. One morning, after her mom leaves, Heidi comes onto the boyfriend and they begin to kiss, right as Heidi's mom, Nicole (Olivia Pigeot) comes back in to catch them. Quickly, Heidi runs off to the town of Jindabyne, where she shacks up with a local yuppie for a place to stay. Second night, she meets the mysterious and handsome Joe (Sam Worthington), who takes her back to a hotel where they have at it, like we all know they will. Heidi makes friends with the hotel manager Irene (Lynette Curran) and takes a job at the local gas station with Bianca (Hollie Andrew), a strange, presumptuous woman around Heidi's age. The film mainly consists of Heidi trying to keep these relationships in check and trying to make a life out of the nothing that she has.

Continue reading: Somersault Review

Somersault Review


OK
Despite its title, Cate Shortland's Somersault has no impressive feats of gymnastic ability in its 105 minutes. Instead, we are treated to another story of a young woman discovering both love and sexuality, while also learning the crucial differences between them. My Summer of Love, an impassioned, but wholly contrived film that debuted earlier this year, looked at these events in the face of a young lesbian (bisexual?) relationship. Shortland goes for the straight and narrow.

Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is a naïve teen who lives with her mom and her boyfriend. Before your mind starts flopping around in the gutter, no, the boyfriend does not molest her and he is not an abusive drunk. One morning, after her mom leaves, Heidi comes onto the boyfriend and they begin to kiss, right as Heidi's mom, Nicole (Olivia Pigeot) comes back in to catch them. Quickly, Heidi runs off to the town of Jindabyne, where she shacks up with a local yuppie for a place to stay. Second night, she meets the mysterious and handsome Joe (Sam Worthington), who takes her back to a hotel where they have at it, like we all know they will. Heidi makes friends with the hotel manager Irene (Lynette Curran) and takes a job at the local gas station with Bianca (Hollie Andrew), a strange, presumptuous woman around Heidi's age. The film mainly consists of Heidi trying to keep these relationships in check and trying to make a life out of the nothing that she has.

Continue reading: Somersault Review

Love Serenade Review


Very Good
This quirky Aussie comedy was massively overshadowed by Muriel's Wedding, which preceded it by a year, but it's just as enjoyable. Miranda Otto steals the show in an early performance of the mousy sister of a shrewish hag (Rebecca Frith), who is instantly smitten when a radio DJ (George Shevstov) moves in next door. There's not much shaking in their remote community, so when the DJ picks Miranda first, an epic catfight/love triangle ensues. Lots of fun, though the supernatural third act comes out of nowhere and ruins a lot of what was built up earlier.

Holy Smoke Review


Essential
It's so comforting to see a talented actor recover from the precarious heights of mass-market success. After Titanic, I was perfectly prepared to condemn Kate Winslet to the same pit of has-been obscurity Leonardo DiCaprio belongs in. Fortunately, Winslet didn't sink with the ship.

Holy Smoke is the entrancing story of two zealots on a collision course with fate. Ruth, played by Winslet, is a young Australian who finds what she believes to be the path to enlightenment through the influence of a Guru while on holiday in India. When Mum (Julie Hamilton) gets word, she cooks up a plot to lure Ruth home and hires top cult deprogrammer PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel) to bring her daughter to reason.

Continue reading: Holy Smoke Review

The Piano Review


Essential
"We can't leave the piano!" Anna Paquin's precociousness and grating voice may have turned a lot of people away from The Piano, but her Oscar a few months later redeemed her somewhat. Paquin has since grown up, but her debut film is unforgettable: The haunting tragedy-with-happy-ending of an 1800s-era mute woman essentially exiled to New Zealand with her emotionally dead husband. Jane Campion does her best directing ever, working a miracle out of the bizarre Harvey Keitel, with whom Holly Hunter's Ada falls in love. Forbidden romance on a deserted, cold, and rainy island? Sign me up.

Lantana Review


Good
Men have feelings too. Men cry, despite the stigma attached to their gender, or at least they want to more than they let on. It's all societal conditioning. That's the pretentious premise of this never-ending, two-hour look at couple dysfunction.

With a highly acclaimed cast that includes Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, and Geoffrey Rush you would hope this idea would provide great material for such illustrious actors to sink their teeth into. Unfortunately, having been adapted for the screen from a play, by the playwright himself, much of the emotional impact is lost in overwhelmingly dramatic dialogue.

Continue reading: Lantana Review

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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.

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Jan Chapman Movies

Bright Star Movie Review

Bright Star Movie Review

With a sumptuous attention to detail, lush photography and beautifully understated performances, Campion turns real...

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Holy Smoke Movie Review

Holy Smoke Movie Review

It's so comforting to see a talented actor recover from the precarious heights of mass-market...

Lantana Movie Review

Lantana Movie Review

Men have feelings too. Men cry, despite the stigma attached to their gender, or...

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