Cast left for dead

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

Di­rec­tor: Fred Schep­isi ( Last Or­ders ) Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Char­lotte Ram­pling, John Gaden, He­len Morse

Could have blown over quicker LIKE the cen­tral fig­ure in this am­bi­tious adap­ta­tion of the cel­e­brated Pa­trick White novel,

The Eye of the Storm coughs a lit­tle, splut­ters a lot and then fi­nally passes away.

Un­like the el­derly ma­tri­arch El­iz­a­beth Hunter ( Char­lotte Ram­pling) – mak­ing mis­chief while propped up in her deathbed for the du­ra­tion of the film – The Eye of the Storm just doesn’t know when its time is up.

Run­ning at al­most two hours, this un­even pro­duc­tion spends too long do­ing too lit­tle with its won­der­ful cast. Pa­tience is not only a virtue here, it’s an out­right ne­ces­sity.

The year is 1972. The city is Syd­ney. And the end is near for old Mrs Hunter, a wealthy gra­zier’s widow. Her home is a flurry of ac­tiv­ity in prepa­ra­tion for the ar­rival of ‘‘ the chil­dren’’.

Both kids ap­pear to have blown out at least 50 can­dles on a birth­day cake. Both have lived a ma­jor­ity of their adult lives over­seas, en­joy­ing some early suc­cess be­fore hit­ting hard times. Nei­ther, it must be said, is too moved by the plight of their ail­ing mother.

Sir Basil ( Geoffrey Rush), a once-fa­mous ac­tor on the Lon­don stage, would rather plant him­self in a nearby beer gar­den and talk with the lo­cal thes­pi­ans. Any of­fers of fe­male com­pany will al­ways be ac­cepted. Princess Dorothy ( Judy Davis), still cling­ing to her ti­tle though no longer mar­ried to a mem­ber of the French aris­toc­racy, is not as so­cially nor sex­u­ally in­clined as her brother. But she is just as broke.

Ram­pling’s scenes as El­iz­a­beth are a mas­ter­class in re­fined, re­source­ful act­ing. If you do bond with this fit­fully in­trigu­ing drama in any way, it will be all thanks to her.

As for Rush and Davis, well, both are left a lit­tle want­ing by a script that never quite cap­tures the essence of their char­ac­ters. Un­for­tu­nately, for a floridly ap­pointed Rush, though he is play­ing a sup­posed pants­man of the stage, in close-up he looks like more of an old dame than the ev­er­ra­di­ant Ram­pling.

Vet­eran di­rec­tor Fred Schep­isi should have done more to tighten up this ram­bling af­fair.

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