Kay (Karen Colston) and Sweetie (Genevieve Lemon) are sisters, although Kay wishes they weren't. Kay is shy, superstitious and sexually repressed. Sweetie is loud, slovenly and quite possibly mentally ill. Crashing her way into Kay's life with a junkie boyfriend (Michael Lake) in tow, Sweetie manages to disrupt Kay's attempts to live a normal life with her new boyfriend Louis (Tom Lycos) and expose the rotten roots of the entire family.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Jane Campion burst onto the international cinema stage with Sweetie invited to the official Competition at Cannes. Her natural flair for filmmaking is in evidence throughout, as she uses a variety of tools to engage the viewer, from perspective and framing to points of view, textures, colours and juxtapositions. As she explains on the commentary, though, the script owes much to Gerard Lee, a fellow film school student and one-time lover of Campion's. She credits Lee with the film's tone and humour.
The tools she uses enhance Lee's work, and are all in the service of the story, a helter skelter ride through the offbeat life of a suburban Australian family whose youngest daughter is 'abnormal' - not so much as to be institutionalised, but enough to disrupt their lives. Genevieve Lemon excels as Sweetie, who can be fascinating and dangerous, bitter and sweet all in the space of four seconds. Assisted by wonderfully creative make up, hair and wardrobe, Lemon delivers an unforgettable characterisation.
John Darling and Dorothy Barry as the parents were both rightly nominated for their roles at the AFI Awards (as was Lemon), and Sally Bongers deservedley got a nomination for her cinematography. The screenplay by Campion and Gerard Lee won the year's feature film writing award, and that's not just for its dialogue, but for its dense, observant exploration of a family that is not that extraordinary, but a gripping example of the human condition.
Visually interesting and directed with brio, Sweetie is an iconic piece of Australian cinema.
Published April 16, 2009
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SWEETIE: DVD (M)
CAST: Genevieve Lemon, Karen Colston, Tom Lycos, Jon Darling, Dorothy Barry, Michael Lake, Andre Pataczek, Jean Hadgraft, Paul Livingston, Louise Fox
PRODUCER: John Maynard
DIRECTOR: Jane Campion
SCRIPT: Gerard Lee, Jane Campion
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sally Bongers
EDITOR: Veronika Haeussler
MUSIC: Martin Armiger
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter Harris
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 5.1 [English subtitles]
SPECIAL FEATURES: New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Sally Bongers and approved by director Jane Campion; audio commentary featuring Campion, Bongers and screenwriter Gerard Lee
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: November 12, 2008