Saturday, December 24, 2016

MENTAL (2012)

Written & Directed By: P.J. Hogan 
Cinematography By: Donald McAlpine 
Editor: Jill Bilcock 

Cast: Toni Collette, Anthony LaPaglia, Liev Schreiber, Caroline Goodall, Kerry Fox, Natasha Bassett, Hayley Magnus, Nicole Freeman, Chelsea Bennett, Lily Sullivan, Bethany Whitmore, Sam Clark 

The Moochmore girls are certain they all suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness - because if they're not crazy then they're just unpopular. Their mother Shirley - unable to cope with her demanding daughters and unsupported by her philandering politician husband, Barry - suffers a nervous breakdown. After Barry commits his wife to a mental hospital (telling his constituents that "she's on holiday") he finds himself alone with 5 teenage girls he barely knows. Desperate, he impulsively picks up a hitchhiker named Shaz and installs her in his home as nanny to his daughters.

Like a latter day more adult Mary Poppins. Only here with more of a backstory. And a lot less fantasy.

The film allows a strong performance by Toni Colette. Who decades ago made her debut in the superior MURIEL'S WEDDING with the same director P.J. Hogan. That film happens to be one of my favorite films. Her characters arrival isn't perfect as she comes with a sad past tragic personal history. That we learn about more towards the last act of the film. When everything looks perfect is when the film decides to take a more serious turn.

This film is strangely broad for a film that is more personal for the director. As a bunch of the material is taken from his life growing up in similar fashion.

It's a coming of age tale for all involved as they release thier individual sides and passions and learn to accept themselves amongst other things. More look at who is judging them and what gives them the right when they have certain disorders themselves

The film is all over the place and tries to send a message about conformity, mental illness. Reasoning that the girls don't fit inside the normal box. Which is similar to the rest of the citizens of Australia all around them. None of them do, the girls are hair sane enough to realize it. That they shouldn't worry about trying to be normal as what really is normal. Plus, it's much more fun to be yourself.

The film is both funny at times and emotional. Having it's up and downs, but always seem good to have a sense of fun and adventure. It also seems to be trying far from effortlessly but ending up with a satisfying presentation.

As it is strange material as when it get's dark it spares no light, but then asks the audience to deal with it just like the characters.

Which gives a finality in the movie, but you have grown so close to the characters you worry about the future.

As it switches back at times as the film seems to be candy colored, bright and fun while seeming like a fairy tale. Then get's serious but keeps that brightness all around. Hough it never get's so sweet that it can feel overpowering and bitter.

At times the film can be a bit vulgar, but fits into the overall attitude and scheme of the film. As there is nudity, by sex is never really dealt with or a big deal.

The film is very unorthodox but has a fun and pure spirit. Even though at times the film does look like it will lead to bleak endings. The film does manage to be surprisingly sweet. It is a one of a kind marvel to watch that stays unpredictable in a manner like a musical.

At times the film reminds you of Collette's and Hogan's better work but it's hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice. This film unfortunately isn't as strong or as tight. But still has the essence and spirit of the joy that it brought.

Liev Schreiber is a welcome surprise as his character almost comes out of nowhere and proves to be an intergal part of the film and story. It's also Nice to see Anthony LaPaglia on screen using his native tongue of austrailian and though dramatic at times in more comedic role.

What strongly works and anchors the film is Toni Colette's performance she is an actress to admire as she is usually exceptional in roles and works a lot, but never seems to get the better roles or the accolades they she deserves. As she is an accomplished actress. Here she is one the best things in the film as she is fearless throughout. She and the film keeps you on your toes.

This film is definitely not for children.

Grade: C+

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