Made in: New Zealand, UK
Language: EnglishDirector: Peter Jackson
Starring: Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey, Sarah Peirse, Simon O'Connor, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison
Based on a true story
Synopsis: Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a lonely outcast at an all-girls high school in Christchurch, New Zealand. She soon befriends Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), an intelligent and free-spirited girl from England. Juliet shamelessly goes against the stuffy, rigid atmosphere of their school, and the two realize that they each have a wildly imaginative side.
They take to writing elaborate fantasy stories, and frequently get carried away with the characters and plots they create. However, their relationship takes an obsessive turn and their mutual attachment takes them down darker paths, egged on in great part by their respective dysfunctional parents.
Fearing a permanent separation, the teens become more and more unhinged until they are driven to murder Pauline's mother (played by Sarah Peirse).
The Good: A departure from the comedy/horror splatter that Peter Jackson is normally known for, Heavenly Creatures is nonetheless an intense and manic film.
Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are brilliantly authentic, and the sense of psychological unbalance exhibited by both girls is ever present without turning them into caricatures. We know that they'll snap eventually, and when they do, it is by no means anticlimactic.
By visually interpreting the imaginations of Juliet and Pauline through fantastical sequences, we get a foretaste of the creativity that Peter Jackson would later present to the world in Lord of the Rings. But aside from special effects, Heavenly Creatures has plenty of gorgeous shots of New Zealand's natural beauty.
The Bad: If you're not familiar with Peter Jackson and his style, this film will often come across as nightmarish, loud, and perhaps just plain weird. The decision to interpret a real-life event with so many "fantasy" elements is bold, but gives the impression that the facts of the story may be undermined by too much artistic license.
Who would like this movie: Although nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, this movie's for you if you're a Peter Jackson fan, or at least familiar with his work. Experienced watchers of foreign films and indie flicks will also appreciate it (or at least get through it without any problems). But for those who have just started getting into international cinema, this might prove to be a bit too bizarre.
(2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars)
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