The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - EVAN WIL­LIAMS

THE best ones this week are all on the grim side, but it’s school hol­i­days so I’ll men­tion a cou­ple of nicer ones for chil­dren. The Se­cret Gar­den ( Mon­day, mid­day, Nine) is a lovely adap­ta­tion of Frances Hodg­son Bur­nett’s clas­sic tale, di­rected with a clear, un­sen­ti­men­tal eye by Ag­nieszka Hol­land ( who made this year’s Copy­ing Beethoven ). Kate Maberly plays lonely Mary, who is or­phaned by an earth­quake in In­dia and sent to live in a gloomy gothic pile in the north of Eng­land, to be looked af­ter by her wid­owed un­cle ( John Lynch) and mean- spir­ited house­keeper Mrs Med­lock ( Mag­gie Smith). The se­cret gar­den proves to be a refuge for Mary and her two un­likely com­pan­ions, her un­cle’s in­valid son, whom she helps back to life, and a young fel­low who talks to an­i­mals. All is del­i­cate, mys­te­ri­ous and thor­oughly en­gag­ing. I showed it to my grand­daugh­ters when they were seven or there­abouts, and they loved it.

El­iza is an­other child who talks to an­i­mals, this time in an an­i­mated film, The Wild Thorn­ber­rys Movie ( Sun­day, 1pm, Ten). It has much hu­mour and sparkle, with Brenda Blethyn, Lynn Red­grave and Ru­pert Everett sup­ply­ing some of the voices.

In the dire and nasty cat­e­gory, Nine is show­ing two films about young men be­hav­ing badly in a post- fem­i­nist age of male alien­ation and de­spair. Fight Club ( Fri­day, mid­night) is a bit­terly funny and dis­turb­ing fa­ble about a neu­rotic ur­ban pro­fes­sional type ( Ed­ward Nor­ton) and an edgy young risk- taker ( Brad Pitt) who meet by chance on a plane trip and dis­cover a weird form of psy­chother­apy in bloody fisticuffs. Soli­tary bouts lead to the for­ma­tion of a club where other emo­tion­ally stunted and trou­bled men are drawn to rit­u­als of cathar­tic pain. David Fincher’s film ( from Chuck Palah­niuk’s novel) is an­ar­chic and shock­ing: one of Hol­ly­wood’s bold­est ex­per­i­ments and a land­mark film of the 1990s.

Less grip­ping but no less un­pleas­ant is Neil LaBute’s In the Com­pany of Men ( Wed­nes­day, mid­night, Nine) a kind of Dan­ger­ous Li­aisons for our cor­po­ra­tised cul­ture. With no vi­o­lence, no blood­shed, in­deed with lit­tle ac­tion of any kind, LaBute has con­structed a story of re­fined psy­cho­log­i­cal cru­elty wor­thy of the most cal­lous Restora­tion in­trigue. And, like Fight Club , it asks to be taken se­ri­ously.

The set­ting is a name­less Amer­i­can city where two 30- ish ex­ec­u­tives, Chad ( Aaron Eck­hart) and Howard ( Matt Mal­loy), har­bour re­sent­ments against the world. Pro­mo­tions have passed them by, lovers and girl­friends have proved faith­less or un­grate­ful. It’s time

for re­venge. The two con­trive to se­duce the un­sus­pect­ing Chris­tine ( Stacy Ed­wards), a hand­i­capped girl from the typ­ing pool, and aban­don her when her pas­sions are aroused. It is es­sen­tial to the scheme that the cho­sen vic­tim should be some­one so plain or un­gainly ( in Chris­tine’s case, deaf and speechim­paired) that she will more eas­ily suc­cumb to ro­man­tic ad­vances and suf­fer more acutely when re­jected.

To his credit, LaBute is de­cently in­dig­nant about the en­tire cor­po­rate cul­ture, not just its fe­male vic­tims. This is a world where blokes, too, can be hu­mil­i­ated. In one scene a male of­fice in­tern is obliged to re­move his un­der­pants for an in­ter­view. In the end, we are left merely with a nasty taste.

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