Search
3D 80s Cinema Action Adaptation Adventure Age of Adaline aliens altzheimers amazon Amitabh Bachchan Animation anime Ari Gold Australian film AV Industry BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blake Lively Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Camille Keenan Cancer candyman cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch Christopher Nolan Comedy Coming-of-Age Crowd-sourced Cure Dakota Johnson Dardennes Brothers Deepika Padukone Depression Disney Documentary Dr Moreau drama Dustin Clare EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Epic Erotic Cinema Extreme Sports Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Foreign found footage French Cinema Golan Globus green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Happiness Harrison Ford Harry Dean Stanton Hasbro Haunted house Hhorror Himalaya Hollywood horror Horror Film Housebound Idris Elba IMAX In Your Eyes Independent Indian Film Infini Internet Interstellar Iron Man 3 Irrfan Khan James Gunn Jamie Dornan Jeff Krulik Jennifer Kent Jennifer Peedom Jeremy Piven John Cusack Josie Ho Joss Whedon Kathmandu kite Kristen Stewart Ladyhawke Latvian Cinema Liam Neeson Lili Tomlin Lord of the Rings los angeles Love & Mercy Lukla Making of Marion Cotillard Mark Hartley Mark Wahlberg Marriage Marvel MGM Michael Bay MIFF Minuscule Mount Everest Naked Ambition Nepal New Zealand Film Nuit de la Glisse NZFC Oscars Outback Ozploitation Pacific Rim Palio Paper Planes Perth Pet Sounds Piku Poltergeist Post-apocalyptic Quarantine Haunting Quarantine Station remake Research Retro Fashion Revelations Review Reviews
« LOOPER | Main | KATH & KIMDERELLA »
Wednesday
Sep192012

MENTAL

Stars: Toni Collette, Rebecca Gibney, Anthony La Paglia, Liev Shrieber, Caroline Goodall, Deborah Mailman, Kerry Fox, Lilly Sullivan, Betheny Whitmore, Sam Clark and Nicole Freeman.
Writer/Director: P. J. Hogan

Rating: 3/5


It is impossible not to feel some love for Mental, a coarse, colourful comedy that marks director PJ Hogan’s return to the raucous suburban milieu he captured so memorably in Muriel’s Wedding. That said, it sure is hard too sometimes.

Leading lady Toni Collette and a gaudy seaside enclave peopled by eccentric denizens are just two of the instantly familiar elements in a film that reworks ever so slightly just about every memorable aspect of the 1994 hit. Mental is guaranteed to satiate anyone still pining for the sequel to Muriel’s Wedding that oddly failed to eventuate in the wake of its success (full disclosure – liked but never loved it).

The freedom afforded Hogan upon agreeing to seek a second cinematic lightning-strike has proved a double-edged sword. This is clearly an aesthetic that he adores, but the unbridled joie de vivre he specialises in has also resulted in a deeply indulgent, wildly unwieldy film that ultimately feels as schizophrenic as several of his characters.

The haphazard plot begins with the inevitable breakdown of Shirley Moochmore (Rebecca Gibney), the deluded soon-to-be ex-wife of the town’s sleazy mayor, Barry (Anthony LaPaglia). Their four daughters are largely raising themselves, led by Coral (a fine Lily Sullivan), although each have their own borderline psychosis. With Shirley hospitalized (and largely sidelined from the film’s mid-section, despite most of the first 30 minutes being entirely her tale), Barry picks up hippy/hobo Shaz (Collette) and puts her in charge of the household. Strong bonds are formed and these scenes represent the best moments in the film; Shaz’s cafe showdown with two teen tormentors is a highlight.

However, Hogan loses control of his imagined world in the third act. An awkwardly weighty amount of new exposition is introduced, spinning the film off into its own bi-polar existence. Meagre subplots involving Kerry Fox’s snotty neighbour, Liev Shrieber’s bitter ex-shark hunter, Deborah Mailman’s lesbian mental-patient, Sam Clark’s surfie heart-throb and Caroline Goodall’s doll-obsessed auntie are all loopy artifice but are afforded hefty screen-time. The engaging rapport between Shaz and the girls is jettisoned in favour of a darker, far less credible plot involving Shaz’s sad history. Way over-stretched at 116 minutes, Mental seems to end on at least four different occasions before Hogan grinds the whimsy into gear again…and again…and again.  

As with Muriel’s Wedding, the ace in Hogan’s sleeve is Toni Collette. Though her very broad ‘Strine may be a turn-off for some, she gives her all in a performance that asks her to go beyond the call of duty in some particularly distasteful scenes; Hogan’s penchant for icky physical humour extends to elaborately silly gags about menstruating and lighting farts. Others who register strongly are Gibney, whose startling physical commitment to the role will shock some; Shrieber’s salty curmudgeon, Trevor Blundell; and, the bit players who populate the mental healthcare institution, many of which provide the film’s biggest laughs.

The autobiographical nature of both Muriel’s Wedding and Mental ensures Hogan connects with the character’s idiosyncrasies; the gaudy flair that he splashes about pales next to the affection he has for his characters. The plot may be cumbersome and the humour over-played, but Mental still manages to feel like the vision of a director working from the heart, albeit via an appropriately twisted mind.

References (4)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Nice page, Keep up the very good job. Thanks!
  • Response
    Response: flood damage
  • Response
    screen-space - Reviews - MENTAL
  • Response
    screen-space - Reviews - MENTAL

Reader Comments (1)

Can't help but feel you missed the point of the movie here... The things you critique so strongly are very much deliberate on Hogan's part, and for me, what sets it apart (and above) the rest of the droll Aussie films that have been released in recent years. For once, something with some creative flair that most Australians can relate to.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJesse Kuch

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>