Writer/director P.J. Hogan hit the big time with his Oz-based break-out smash Muriel’s Wedding, and he was promptly whisked away to Hollywood where he has directed a batch of okay-to-good movies (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Peter Pan, Confessions Of A Shopaholic), none of which matched the sparkle of his Aussie origins. So he has returned to the land down under with his latest movie, and brought Muriel along with him.
Shaz (Toni Collette) has been hired to be a live-in babysitter for a group of five young girls after their mother has been placed in a mental institution, and their father is too busy running for mayor to even notice that his family is falling apart. The girls are all convinced that they each have psychological problems of their own, and are all generally disliked by everyone in their town. So the pot-smoking, knife-wielding, wave of profanity Shaz decides to turn their lives around by convincing them that what makes them different doesn’t make them weird, it makes them unique. The core message is schmaltzy to the point of causing diabetes, but thankfully Shaz is such a volatile loose cannon, the potential sickening sweetness never hangs around for too long.
There are a lot of subplots to take into consideration, too; eldest daughter Coral has a new love interest, her shark-hunting boss Trevor (Liev Schrieber) has a murky past to deal with, Shaz’s best friend Sandra (The Sapphires’ Deborah Mailman) is a lesbian aboriginal who gets involved with the daughter of a racist homophobe… and it’s this scattershot approach to the movie that leads to its eventual downfall. Hogan tries to keep too many plates spinning, and eventually any story not directly involving Shaz becomes boring and unnecessary, while the tone of the movie is completely all over the place; one minute it’s a riotous comedy about a dysfunctional family, and the next it’s a seriously dark drama about mental health.
Thankfully the movie is filled with mostly fantastic performances; Liev Schrieber nails the Australian accent of his gruff charismatic loner, Rebecca Gibney is heart-breaking as the fragile but loving mother, but all in all this is the Toni Collette show, as her layered portrayal of a potentially one-note character is the bright, shining star that’ll make you stick with Mental til the very end.
Review by Rory Cashin | 16:17 | Friday 9th November 2012 | Movie Review
I like the look of this - Muriel's Wedding was fab.Posted 11:09 | Thu 15th Nov 2012
Mental is definitely not another Muriel's Wedding. It's quite eccentric and mental in its own way, but it's worth a look.Posted 11:39 | Sat 17th Nov 2012
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