How entertaining? ★★★★☆
Thought provoking? ★★☆☆☆
14 September 2011
This article is a review of HEAVENLY CREATURES.
“Only the best people fight against all obstacles in pursuit of happiness,” Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet)
A welcome re-release of Peter Jackson’s dramatic thriller – a demonstration on how to direct a period piece without falling into the usual formula of staid and ponderous pacing; instead conveying energy without fast editing and shaking the camera to an inch of its life. If you needed evidence of Jackson’s skills, this is another exhibit. From BAD TASTE to HEAVENLY CREATURES to KING KONG, there is a command of craft and confidence that is all too rare. He’s not without missteps though – THE LOVELY BONES.
This may seem like an anathema in the director’s oeuvre of horror and fantasy – an interpretation of the years (1952-4) leading up to the murder of Honora Parker Rieper – however we are given an insight into an imaginary world, involving Plasticine heroes and villains, eschewing Christian notions of heaven for an King Arthur-style paradise. The mixture of the make-believe and the reality of their family lives is a precursor to PAN'S LABYRINTH; but instead of innocence corrupted by external forces, we are in a territory where a burgeoning friendship turns into a sort of co-dependency that leads to murder. It is up to the audience to try and deduce cause and effect, motivation and culpability. I have a feeling that there is too much ambiguity to explain why they did what they did. Even with the diaries of Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) detailing her life with Juliet Hulme, these two girls remain enigmatic. Their relationship reminds me of Darren and Sinead in DISCO PIGS – another tale of teenage intensity, invented world and murder.
The direction, script and acting are mesmerisingly first rate. It’s hard to believe this is the cinematic debut of Winslet and Lynskey. Talent abounds.