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Reckoning

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LANTANA

SYNOPSIS:
Psychiatrist Dr Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey) has written a book about the murder of her 11 year-old daughter Eleanor. Valerie's clients include Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) who suspects her husband Leon Zat (Anthony La Paglia), a homicide detective, of being unfaithful. Another client, Patrick Phelan, (Peter Phelps) has revealed details of an affair he is conducting with a married man - Valerie suspects it is her husband John Knox (Geoffrey Rush). When Valerie goes missing, Jane O'May (Rachel Blake), with whom Leon has been sleeping, suspects her next door neighbour Nik D'Amato (Vince Colosimo) and calls police. Leon is assigned the case and in the process discovers a web of connections and secrets in Valerie's files.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Warmly received at its world premiere (Opening Film, Sydney Film Festival, June 8, 2001), Lantana is a film for film lovers, an engaging character study whose subjects are as varied as they are self-contradictory. Those elements, coupled with its daily dramas explored under psychiatry, are reminiscent of Woody Allen’s fondness for the bizarre appearing out of nowhere. But unlike Allen, writer Andrew Bovell is informed by Australian idiosyncrasies, as the title implies. (Lantana is an Australian bush, a weed that infests the suburbs and sprouts toy-coloured flowers.) Producer Jan Chapman referred to the film at the premiere as being primarily an exploration of men and their feelings (or what’s visible of them) but that may be a view from the inside of the creative filmmaking process. From the audience’s point of view, the film is more subtle and more complex than she implies. Indeed, the men and the women in the film claim equal portions of our attention and our sympathies. Honest, moving, vulnerable performances from the entire cast makes Lantana a genuine movie pleasure, showing us the frailty of human nature as well as its resilience. They draw us in and well observed writing keeps us there. Ray Lawrence’s direction is both economical and focused; with an almost Jesuit-like discipline, he unravels his story through the structure of character revelation, never letting us get ahead of him. This tension serves the film well for most of its running time, bar a few plods in the middle, and makes the plot and character revelations reverberate with meaning. But there are no clichés, no pat endings and no predictability. Life does go on, no matter what, but it is never the same as before. Before what? Before everything.

Review by Louise Keller:
From the opening sequence of Lantana, in which we are drawn slowly beneath the surface of the plant's pretty, aromatic flower to its dark, mysterious undergrowth, we sense that we are about to embark on a journey that is anything but trivial. And what a satisfying journey it is, this powerful exploration of vulnerabilities and relationships. The superficial is on display and accessible to all; under the surface lies the jungle that is our emotions. Ray Lawrence's intense drama envelops us in the different worlds of characters whose lives intersect in some way. We meet them at work, at home, at play and when they don't want to be seen. We see their different sides as they perform different roles. Andrew Bovell's script is concise and uncluttered; we understand the characters and their complexity only too well and make no judgements. Anthony LaPaglia bares his soul as Leon, the tough cop whose marriage is floundering and is searching for greener pastures. We meet Leon in bed in a casual relationship, on the job as the tough cop, at home as the family man and out of control as the husband who doesn't understand himself. It's a brutally honest performance that sears through our emotions and LaPaglia is superb. But the entire cast is outstanding; how could you not be moved by the hurt vulnerability of Kerry Armstrong's Sonia and Rachael Blake's lonely Jane who compete for Leon's attentions? Daniella Farinacci, Vince Colosimo, Geoffrey Rush and Peter Phelps – theirs are all performances that will haunt you. Tension builds well and Sydney (appropriately enough) looks grey and solemn much of the time through Mandy Walker's assured lens. At Lantana's premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, the audience responded at times with laughter, showing recognition for often painful or real situations to which they could obviously relate. A gripping and engrossing cinematic experience, Lantana delves far beneath the surface, resulting in a profoundly rewarding and totally involving drama about real people, real emotions and very real outcomes.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Welcome back Ray Lawrence. With a successful career in commercials the director of Bliss (1985) is not making a "comeback" with Lantana - more a return with the right project. And a fine, elegant and mature adult drama it is. With a hint of Magnolia and Robert Altman, Lawrence expertly weaves around a quartet of married couples connected by psychiatrist Valerie (Barbara Hershey), whose disappearance is the fulcrum about which the drama revolves. Andrew Bovell's adaptation of his play Speaking In Tongues glides along elusively at first, carefully establishing its characters as it explores themes of love, loyalty, identity and betrayal. There's a raw honesty to the conversations and confessions that distinguishes this film from the moment we meet Leon and his lover Jane. She's looking for her earrings and says casually she's fond of them "because my husband gave 'em to me". A chance meeting brings Leon and Jane's estranged husband Pete (Glen Robbins) together, though neither knows who the other is. Pete says "Don't you want to cry sometimes". Leon answers "Yeah, but you don't, do you?". Both nod. Bovell gets beneath the surface with these characters whose reasons for leaving, reasons for staying and reasons for straying in relationships are examined with an acute feel for the truth - in all its pain and beauty. Lantana builds momentum from its character base before Valerie's disappearance slowly draws the threads together. Even then, as it moves into (possible) murder mystery territory, it holds surprises and never slides into a predictable identifiable pattern. This is splendidly performed by a wonderful ensemble cast. Leading lights Hershey, LaPaglia, Rush, Armstrong and Rachael Blake are at their best with such a fine script and Lawrence's intelligent and unobtrusive direction. Special nods also go to Vince Colosimo and Daniela Farinacci as the most outwardly well-adjusted of the married couples and Leah Purcell as Leon's cop partner Claudia, whose romantic drama is one of the many enriching side elements of the best Australian film of the year so far.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with ANTHONY LAPAGLIA

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
ANDREW BOVVELL

Read Brad Green's
SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

LANTANA (MA)
(AUS)

CAST: Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo

DIRECTOR: Ray Lawrence

PRODUCER: Jan Chapman

SCRIPT: Andrew Bovell

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mandy Walker

EDITOR: Karl Sodersten

MUSIC: Paul Kelly

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kim Buddee

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 4, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO/DVD RELEASE: April 24, 2002







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