Mental – Film Review
REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK
Ejected from my house by a tiler who needed to remove asbestos, where else to turn but the Dendy? 9:30 am, Cinema One, seven people (their very breaths echoing before the thing started). Mental.
Lots of ads for coffee and coffee-appropriate food. No fewer than four jewellers (including one touting a range of Paralympic promotional material) and an expensive menswear shop. If they spoke to anyone, it was not me. I had already bathed in coffee, wear only Rivers clothes and (having been dumped*) have no need for jewellery. The previews included the seriously woeful-looking Pitch Perfect. Also, Parental Guidance has Meryl Streep and Billy Crystal as an old-but-new couple trying to interact with her daughter and family. Bring your own Quick-Eze and maybe a bucket.
The feature spends a bit of time cannibalising the soundtrack of The Sound of Music and the deeply affecting imagery of Lost in Space. Setting is Dolphin Point somewhere on the northern NSW coast but maybe with bits elsewhere. It’s the age old story of a father who is a small town king with no time for his family. If his put-upon wife, her sanity leaking at the edges, had wanted fidelity she’d have bought a new sound system. They live among the anally-tidy and repressed, and the poor mother is mocked wherever she goes. The happy couple has five daughters, all of whom imagine themselves insane. It is, of course, All Dad’s Fault. Mum goes away for a while (we all know it’s not really to Wollongong) after a pretty good meltdown and Dad recruits a feral hitchhiker to care for his daughters so he can continue to neglect them.
Meanwhile, the eldest daughter is falling for a surfie-dude who writes songs and plays them on an acoustic guitar and works at the same cheesy funpark she does. The daughter has just been sent to work in the shark exhibit with a Steve Irwin-gone-gruff bloke called Trevor Blundell**. Anyhow, we all know where things are going as the wacky outsider leads a pack of self-described losers.
I read that the story had some personal elements for PJ Hogan, the director. Apart from the main story, there is a social inclusion theme, a hiss at McMansion world and some dredging of past pain. There’s also a few outings for a previously taboo four letter word*** that would probably cause discomfort to some older folk.
It’s quite funny in parts, and it raises some serious issues. But there’s not enough of either.
* – see previous reviews for earlier whines about this.
** – Liev Schreiber, doing a wonderful job with the Oz accent. Really, he could say that a dingo took his baby and sound way more credible than La Streep.
*** – though I understand some feminists may see its use in general speech as a sign of empowerment or something.