Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand, 1994)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent
When I reviewed Bernie more than two years ago, I spoke about the tendency for films based on true crime stories to become sensationalistic. Even films which boast top-end production values and push for awards recognition can be as guilty of exploiting personal misery as any down-and-out, trashy B-movie. The truly successful efforts in this sub-genre - including Richard Linklater's film - work hard to build up tension and drama on their own merits, rather than piggy-backing on the public's awareness of a crime.
Star Wars, so the level of technology that James Cameron enjoyed was not yet cheap or flexible enough to be put in the hands of a low-budget New Zealand drama. And it's a good thing too, because one of this film's major assets is the physicality of its fantasy sequences.
The best way to describe what Jackson has achieved here is to compare this film to his later work, The Lovely Bones. Both films explore an appalling crime involving young women, and both rely to a great extent on the audience connecting with their fantasies (or similar). In The Lovely Bones, Jackson's wasn't bound by any of the same physical rules that he had to follow for The Lord of the Rings: the 'in-between' isn't subject to earthly laws of causality, gravity, logic or anything else. As a result Susie Salmon's 'heaven' quickly descended into a day-glo video game which took the worst aspects of Vincent Ward's What Dreams May Come and made them more unbearably saccharine.
Basic Instinct approach to lesbianism which Hollywood was indulging at the time.
We Need To Talk About Kevin nearly two decades later.
Saving Grace, but even he can only do so much.
NEXT REVIEW: Selma (2014)