movie film review | chris tookey


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  Lantana Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.60 /10
Leon: Anthony LaPaglia , John: Geoffrey Rush , Valerie: Barbara Hershey
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Directed by: Ray Lawrence
Written by: Andrew Bovell from his own play Speaking in Tongues

Released: 2001
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Australia
Colour: C
Length: 115

Lantana looks for a time as if it's going to be a straightforward murder thriller. It does centre on the death of a psychiatrist (Barbara Hershey) who has lost her trust in men, and feels threatened by a gay patient who she thinks may be having an affair with her husband (Geoffrey Rush). Rush's character hasn't been the same since their daughter was abducted and murdered, by an unknown man. But on a deeper level this is a drama about mid-life emotional crisis. The biggest role in the movie goes to Anthony LaPaglia. He plays the married cop who investigates the psychiatrist's disappearance while half-heartedly trying to hold together a marriage which is making both him and his wife (Kerry Armstrong) thoroughly miserable.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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This is the best, but also the most emotionally gruelling, drama from Down Under to reach these shores since Once Were Warriors. It comes garlanded with awards from its own home country, and rightly so. It contains five performances of Oscar-winning quality

The film ruthlessly lays bare the differences between the sexes, the emotional chasm that opens between people when they lose faith in each other, and the unromantic compromises that married couples may have to make if they are to hold their families together, but there's feeling and humanity too. I can't remember a film in which there have been so many rounded, truthful characters.

This is the kind of grown-up drama that doesn't always fill cinemas - it famously didn't, in the case of The Ice Storm and Wonder Boys - but is worth seeking out if you want to watch top-quality drama. It does exist in the cinema, but it's easy to miss amongst the dross..

Most of all, it confirms that Anthony La Paglia is the most under-rated actor in Hollywood. Originally Australian, he first became noticed critically in 1990, with a comic turn opposite Alan Alda in Betsy's Wedding, but that wasn't a hit; and he had the misfortune to give his finest performance until now in a 1995 flop called Killer (or Bulletproof Heart in the States).

Now, even more unfortunately, he's best known for his losing struggle with a Mancunian accent in the TV sitcom Frasier, where he makes occasional appearances as Daphne's untrustworthy brother.

Returning to his Australian roots, he proves himself an outstanding actor, with the power of De Niro or Pacino at their best. It's also partly thanks to him that his co-stars shine - a good example of how great acting doesn't have to be selfish.

Lantana is a bit slow in places; Andrew Bovell's plot relies a tad too much on coincidence; and Ray Lawrence's direction is efficient rather than inspired. But it's been so expertly opened up from a stage play that you'd never guess its theatrical origins.

You won't see any better acted films, or a more ruthlessly honest one about that dangerous moment when middle-aged people start looking at their achievements and relationships, and wondering if this is really all that life has to offer.

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