Even for a riotous Australian black comedy, this film packs in just a bit too much chaos. It's consistently smart and funny, with lively characters and especially witty dialog, but some of the sideroads never go anywhere. Still, there's so much terrific material in here that it's well worth a look for fans of the genre. And it's great to see Collette return home to reunite with her Muriel's Wedding director P.J. Hogan nearly 20 years after they launched their careers.
The story centres on suburban housewife Shirley (Gibney), who is obsessed with The Sound of Music and wishes her unruly family was more like the Von Trapps. But no, her husband (LaPaglia) is the town's philandering mayor, and their five daughters all think they're mentally ill. Then when Shirley herself ends up in a psych ward, Dad brings in the drifter Shaz (Collette) to watch the girls. She takes no prisoners, whipping them into shape while trying to give them some self-respect. She also shows them that the people society considers "normal" are probably crazier than they are. Meanwhile, eldest daughter Coral (Sullivan) gets a job at a shark exhibit run by a salty fisherman (Schreiber) who has a connection with Shaz.
Writer-director Hogan packs the film with rude references to The Sound of Music, from a pastiche pre-title sequence to Shaz's unconventional Maria-like approach to child-rearing (with heavy overtones of Mary Poppins). The film is colourful and sometimes too hyperactive, with Collette often going way over-the-top as the wildly unhinged Shaz, who also upends the life of their compulsive next-door neighbour (Fox). Much of this is simply too wacky for us to go along with, but other scenes are quietly insightful and very, very funny. Often at the same time.
Continue reading: Mental Review
Muriel's Wedding uses the songs of the Swedish supergroup as a clever link to the thoughts and feelings of Muriel, a young Australian woman obsessed with becoming married as soon as possible. Muriel (Toni Collette) lives with her go-nowhere family in the town of Porpoise Spit, where she spends most of her time in her room, listening to ABBA when her father isn't giving her grief.
Continue reading: Muriel's Wedding Review
In a plot that I can only describe as inspired-by-peyote, Kathy Bates decides to head to rural Britain for the funeral of a murdered pop star after hubby Dan Aykroyd abruptly dumps her. Dressed in sequins and seen mainly in Six Feet Under-like flashbacks/materializations, Jonathon Pryce plays the pop star. As it turns out, pop star is gay and has left his estate to his lover (Rupert Everett). Bates and Everett then take it upon themselves to hunt down the murderer. What follows includes both Barry Manilow and Sally Jessy Raphael.
Continue reading: Unconditional Love Review
Though Crowe would go on to command a higher paycheck, it's Weaving who seizes the plum role here as Martin, a blind man who takes pictures to crystallize the world around him so that others can later confirm his experiences. He meets Andy (Crowe), and the two strike up a friendship over a cat that Martin has inadvertently injured. Martin charges Andy with the task of viewing his photos, insisting that Andy must never lie to him. The paradox of Martin's strategy becomes immediately apparent. In order to receive the proof he craves, he must find someone he can trust.
Continue reading: Proof (1992) Review