Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Suburban Mayhem

I rushed back from Invercargill (I spent the weekend down there for the Bluff Oyster Festival) in order to be in the Regent Theatre for the 8:00 p.m. showing of this movie - I am still not convinced I couldn't have just taken my time driving back and given the movie a miss. I am having a real difficulty in working out my take on Emily Barclay (In My Father's Den), who was its main protagonist - someone I could not like at all. I guess that that means that Barclay acted very well, although there were times I had trouble taking her seriously. There's a point where she has to threaten someone ("Withdraw that complaint in the morning, or I'll be back. And I won't be alone. I'm a Skinner. My brother's a murderer. I'll have your head cut off.") but it wasn't exactly threatening. (I have just come back from watching Christina Ricci in action, and there's no comparison between the two.) Barclay did, however, win an AFI Best Actress Award.

I am listening to an interview with the writer (Alice Bell (who, intriguingly, was a stunt double for Barclay) who is explaining her motivation for the movie - a series of murders by teenagers, and she started to think about people who simply have no boundaries. The movie starts out with the news that one John Skinner has been murdered, and takes on a semi-documentary approach to show how it came about. Katrina (Barclay) is his daughter - it soon becomes clear that she has absolutely no insight into the implications of her actions, no conscience: what she wants, she'll get, normally by using others.
I guess the real interest is in watching how far she's willing to go. She does have one good line: she accuses her dad of trying to brainwash her, with his kindness - as if that's a bad thing.

What she wants here is for her dad to die, not for the normal reason of a teenager "hating" her parents, but because she is totally obsessed with her brother. He is in jail for killing a shop-keeper (chopped his head off with a sword) and Katrina wants to sell her dad's house and use the money to get him out. She'd do anything for him, even have sex with a "disabled".

Her three assistants are her boyfriend (and father of her child) Rusty, the rather simple Kenny, and the innocent Lilya. Poor Lilya, she is so sweet but thinks that by hanging out with Katrina, her life will gain some sort of edge. Katrina is horrible to all three - Kenny keeps coming back for more, Rusty seems to take off in a huff (but does he?) and Lilya's dad intervenes to keep Katrina away from her (after Katrina has her babysit "for an afternoon" and isn't seen for days.

It is no spoiler to say her dad is murdered, given that it is revealed in the opening scenes, but there was an element of dark comedy in his killing. Katrina is in her bedroom, for once being somewhat parental, while her dad is being bludgeoned to death in the next room. Except that he won't die - there are these awful yells and groans, and his killer takes a smoke break with Katrina while working out a better strategy. On the whole, however, I didn't buy into it being a bleakly comic movie, as some of the reviews have billed it.



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