Deeply, ma

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Evan Wil­liams

AT the Sydney pre­view screening of Men­tal, P. J. Ho­gan was on hand to warn us that his new film was like noth­ing we might ex­pect. It was guar­an­teed to sur­prise. And no one, I think, will ar­gue with that. Men­tal is like no other Aus­tralian film I can re­mem­ber, and like noth­ing Ho­gan has done be­fore — a long way, in spirit, from the world of Muriel’s Wed­ding, to say noth­ing of Peter Pan. An out­ra­geous black com­edy, a sour satire on sub­ur­bia, it cheer­fully de­fies all known rules of good taste, moder­a­tion and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

And much of it is wickedly funny. Ho­gan’s sub­ject is men­tal ill­ness or, rather, a world in which there is no such thing as men­tal ill­ness be­cause there is no such thing as nor­mal­ity. It’s a dar­ing propo­si­tion, to say the least; and whether Ho­gan gets away with it will de­pend partly on our ex­pe­ri­ence of these mat­ters and partly on our sense of hu­mour.

Ac­cord­ing to Ho­gan, Men­tal is based on his own child­hood; his mother had a break­down, his fa­ther (like the fa­ther in the film) ran for the lo­cal coun­cil, and ‘‘ we were all a bunch of rat­bags’’. Or as one char­ac­ter in Men­tal sums up the fam­ily’s plight: ‘‘ My dad hates us, my sis­ter talks to aliens, and my mum is in a loony bin.’’

The set­ting

is Dol­phin Heads, a stretch of

(MA15+) ★★★ Na­tional re­lease

Lim­ited re­lease

(M) ★★★✩✩ red-roofed Queens­land sub­ur­bia rem­i­nis­cent of Por­poise Spit, Muriel’s patch in pre­mar­i­tal days. The Moochmores are not a happy fam­ily. Dad (An­thony LaPaglia) is too busy with lo­cal pol­i­tics to spend time with his five daugh­ters, and Mum (Re­becca Gib­ney), known to the neigh­bours as Mrs Moo, is ob­sessed with The Sound of Mu­sic. Her neigh­bour Nancy (Kerry Fox) is a racist with an ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der who spends hours scrub­bing her con­crete drive­way with a tooth­brush.

When one of the Moochmore daugh­ters de­clares, ‘‘ I ex­pect to be a schizophrenic any day now,’’ we won­der who else will join her. It’s no sur­prise to learn that Mrs Moo has reg­u­lar spells in a loony bin. Or, as her daugh­ters are told, ‘‘ Mum’s on hol­i­day in Wol­lon­gong.’’

It is dur­ing one of Mum’s hol­i­days in Wol­lon­gong that Shaz (Toni Col­lette) ar­rives un­bid­den at the Moochmore house­hold to be a

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.