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I understand why teenage girls would like this movie--the thrilling rush of
new found deep friendship tied together with nascent sexuality and all that
comes with it...the defying of the confines of the world around them...the
incredible power of unfettered creativity and self-delusional
What's amazing is that a jaded thirty-something man like myself would consider it to be his favorite film of all time. Peter Jackson shows a deftness in handling interpersonal characterizations and blending in amazing special effects in a way that seems so natural...so fluid...that you while you're awed by what you see, you're not so aware of the process that you're distracted. The oh-so-1993 effect of "morphing" is used better here than any other film (save, perhaps, Terminator 2--but in that movie, the morphing WAS the film...when here, it is merely one element.)
The direction is exemplary. The cinematography is awe inspiring. The script is sharp. The acting...down the line...is superb. Melanie Lynskey delivers a brave performance--giddy, childish, frightening, sexual, clouded... She's everything Christina Ricci pretends to be. Kate Winslet--hyper-bright and wonderful...her performance here reminds you that her "Titanic" performance was "sunk" (sorry!) by the extremely poor dialogue she was given. Her character's overly cheerful demeanor is a mask that covers her disappointment in her parents--but it's extended so far that it no longer seems like a mask...it seems to be a force of nature that drags Lynskey's Pauline along for a dangerous ride...a ride that Winslet's Juliet is in no position to control. There are crisp performances from all of the supporting cast as well.
Jackson should be listed with Gilliam and even Lynch when it comes to directors who can achieve a glorious, if dark, vision. The fact that Jackson's movies (save for "Meet the Feebles") are mainstream accessible--in ways that Lynch, especially, could barely consider (although "The Frighteners" was painfully overlooked by the US market)--makes me wish that he'd try his hand at more mainstream material.
Imagine what a Peter Jackson "Titanic" would have been like...and compare that to what a James Cameron "Heavenly Creatures" would have been like and you get my point.
Lesbian murderers ? I'm sort of guessing that I might not like this
movie very much . No doubt we'll be seeing some polemical do gooder
film maker with zero talent making a movie where anyone who gets
murdered by the gay girls probably asked for it because they were a
That was my abstract opinion of HEAVENLY CREATURES when it was released to some critical acclaim ten years ago , with much of the acclaim going to writer/director Peter Jackson whose previous gory horror comedies I'd enjoyed . Yeah the guy was talented I remember thinking , but in a liberal climate we'd no doubt be hearing a myriad of excuses via the film for the girls crime and it was this attitude that stopped me from watching the movie until it was broadcast on BBC 2 tonight
I was fooling myself if I thought Jackson was going to make a bad movie . This is another piece of heart melting , intelligent movie making from the Kiwi genius and I'm sorry for doubting Jackson for a moment . What Jackson has done has made a movie where it's difficult to think of the two protagonists as " lesbian lovers " , Pauline Reiper and Juliet Hulme are two teenagers who love each other full stop and the screenplay doesn't once make any excuses for anything that happens , we're not supposed to feel disgusted by their relationship , we're not supposed to feel that they are victims in any way and we're not supposed to feel that a conservative , homophobic society is to blame for what happened . Jackson deserves much credit for making an amoral movie without an agenda , it's up to the free thinking audience to make up their own minds on the case. Take for example the murder of Mrs Rieper who kindly takes the girls to a tea house then for a walk in the countryside . It's difficult not to notice that if she'd been an uncaring cruel dragon with absolutely no conscience the girls wouldn't have had an opportunity to murder the woman .
It's also a movie that captures the spirit of being a teenager in love . When for whatever reason you have to say goodbye to your first love it's the end of the world . You'll do anything to stop it happening - ANYTHING - and you won't forgive anyone who caused it to happen . Fantasy sequences similar to the ones shown here are also a staple diet of the teenage mind and if you disagree with me you're either being dishonest or you're under twelve years of age . Believe me this movie reminded me , perhaps a little too much , of my own teenage angst
Jackson also deserves credit for his casting Melanie Lynskey and ( A then totally unknown ) Kate Winslet as Pauline and Juliet . Neither of them can be described as strikingly attractive and you do have to worry who we would have got instead if this was a Hollywood production , but they play the star crossed lovers with absolute conviction , as indeed do the rest of the cast
HEAVENLY CREATURES is beautiful , haunting , thoughtful and incisive . With the exception of Martin Scorsese I rate Peter Jackson as the world's greatest living film maker and HEAVENLY CREATURES is the first movie that showed the true greatness Jackson is capable of
When Juliet Hulme moves from England to New Zealand with her parents,
she meets Pauline Rieper a rather disaffected girl who is happy to
have a friend. As they get to know each other, Pauline is pulled into
the fantasy world of Royals and scandal that Juliet has written.
However as the two fall deeper and deeper into the characters they have
created, their relationship becomes ever more intense and their parents
step in to separate them. Facing a geographical separation, the two
plot to take revenge on the adults who seek to split them up.
At the time of release I remember thinking that this was an unusual film for Peter Jackson to have made given that he was more of a gore merchant as I was aware. Watching it not it still feels like a strange film for him to have done, but now it is for different reasons that is, that he has made one of the biggest trilogies of all time etc! Ignoring his previous and later works, this is a great little film and it acts as a showcase for Jackson as it shows he can be imaginative and also sensitive when required certainly coming to this on the back of Bad Taste, I had low expectations on how he would do it but he did it. The true story is adapted from Pauline's diaries and, while it must be impossible to see how they saw the world, the fantastic fantasy worlds we see here are better than the probably quite repressed world they had in mind from this film I saw the two as being more insular and self defensive than the elaborate fantasy scenes would suggest. The film did well to depict their relationship, immediately having worrying signs but being the sort of thing kids do and the killing hinted at by the film's opening is brutal and unpleasant we are never allowed to side with these people.
The direction is great, creating normal domestic scenes with the same confidence as it uses full size plastic models within the fantasy sequences.
The cast also do well, in particular two great lead performances. Naturally Winslet gets all the kudos for her character is ott at times and spins wildly emotionally a hard role to carry off but she does it very well and showed great promise (even if she looks too old for the role in my opinion). Lynskey impressed me much more as her role was more controlled and was delivered a lot better by an actress who looked like a shy, embarrassed little girl. Both were great for different reasons and they are a big reason this film works so well. Support from the likes of O'Connor, Kent and a few other well known faces are also good but there is never a question about their role within the film they are supporting the main two.
Overall I imagine this film will get a audience boost now as lots of LOTR fans go trawling through Jackson's back catalogue to see what else he has done (boy are they in for a surprise!) and I'm glad more people will see it.
The direction is great and it delivers a complex story in a colourful and fanciful manner, but the main praise should go to the two lead actresses who deal with really difficult characters and do so in a confident and believable manner even if the material means that many of us will want to find what they did abhorrent.
'Heavenly Creatures' is not your average film; it's done with a technique
that is not common in the business, and therefore has been both criticised
and praised. The technique is used by not just filming a story and it's
actions, but by actually showing the side of the girls' vivid imaginations.
This was done through the elaborate sequences of the girls' fantasies. This
way of filming shows how the pair justified the crime they commit, a vital
part of the story. The plot itself does not trail far from the true story,
except for the fact of inferred lesbianism between the two girls.
the real-life Juliet Hulme has vehemently denied) So it's anyone's guess as
to whether or not which possibility is the truth.
Visually, this movie is stunning. The landscape of Christchurch and the surrounding area is beautiful, and adds a sense of authenticity to the film. The voice overs are extracts from the real Pauline's diary, and explain very well what exactly is going on inside of her head. All in all, a very good portrayal by all of the actors (obviously on the part of Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet) and the music is exquisite.
This film is astonishing. Really, I rank it tied in first place as the
best film of 1994, shared with PULP FICTION.
Peter Jackson's masterpiece (thougth I love the Lord of the Rings films) is definitely HEAVENLY CREATURES. It's a challenging film, very difficult to watch at times. But it brilliantly captures the brightly burning, constantly changing, wild emotions of these two intelligent and creative but seriously damaged teenage girls.
Sarah Peirse as the mother is incredible in her role. Melanie Lynskey reaches such a depth with her character...I actually think it's a bit frightening how good she is. And Kate Winslet...ahhh KATE WINSLET! At first glance...the performance might just be blown off as over the top and amateur. But that's only at first glance. Look closer, and stay with it, and you will see what amazing things she has done with this character. It's a remarkable achievement unlike any other acting I've seen in any film of this kind, which is to say a true life crime thriller.
Heavenly Creatures is, and I say this with absolute certainty, the best true life crime thriller ever made. Because instead of trying to be a classic thriller with cheap tricks, Peter Jackson gets you inside the twisted minds of these two girls, and whether you hate them in the end or not, you completely understand why these girls did what they did...and that it was doomed from the start. Kate Winslet is just brilliant. WHY wasn't she given every award under the sun for this?!?!??!
Heavenly Creatures, based on a true story, is written, directed and
produced by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame. This film
captivates, catching you off guard.
Jackson sets the audience up in the beginning by focusing on the tranquil, predictable world of 1950s Christchurch, New Zealand. Before long, the peaceful world is exposed for what it is, repressed.
Two teenage girls, Juliet and Pauline, befriend each other at a private girl's school. They find out they have a lot in common. Sharing a world of fantasy and make believe, leads to an insane reversal. Their fantasy world becomes their reality.
Once they cross that line, their otherwise superficial, conventional world is turned upside down. All the repressed dysfunction surfaces. Ironically, Juliet's mother is a psychotherapist who doesn't see her daughter's neurosis becoming a psychosis. Eventually, Pauline and Juliet go off the deep end, drowning in their make believe world. By the end of the film, they do the unthinkable.
Kate Winslet is superb as Juliet. The rest of the cast is outstanding. Peter Jackson does a masterful job of capturing the essence of 1950s religious repression in New Zealand. It could be England or American in the 1950s. Heavenly Creatures will appeal to anyone who enjoys psychological twists and turns.
Heavenly Creatures is a stunning film, surprisingly coming from the gore-maestro Peter Jackson. It follows two girls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Rieper, who start talking to each other in a P.E. lesson. Over the days their friendship progresses, until they become good friends, and spend time with each other discussing actors, listening to records, and playing dress-up. The acting from Winslet and Lynesky is absolutely terrific from the beginning, Lynesky playing a moody young girl, and Winslet playing the happy, inventive young lady, who is a dab hand a clay modelling and painting. As the film continues, Juliet and Pauline's friendship becomes more and more stronger, as they begin to spend practically every minute of every day with each other. Sarah Peirse give a fine performance as Hilda Hulme, Pauline's mother, who by this time in the movie has become more than a little concerned about the bonding of the two girls. The ending is unforgettable. It is brutal and shocking, however the minutes leading up to the end are beautiful, complete with a spine-tingling, haunting choir music soundtrack. This movie is a beautiful, moving experience, which should leave you tearful by the end.
While watching Heavenly Creatures, we bring ourselves to sympathize with two
unlikely heroines, and then they betray our trust by committing an
unthinkable crime; by the time the film has ended, we feel as if our
emotions have been chewed up and spat back out to the degree where we don't
know WHAT to feel anymore. Heavenly Creatures is either the greatest act of
manipulation ever put on film or a brilliant masterpiece about the dark side
of life: personally, I think it's a little bit of both. Either way, I'm
still trying to get my pulse to return to its normal rate. Director Peter
Jackson (who before this had only made a number of cheap nasty horror movies
-- Bad Taste and Braindead being the most popular --, but later became one
of the most talked-about film-makers as a result of his film interpretation
of The Lord of the Rings) does some remarkable things with bringing this
horrendous true story to the screen: not only is this one of the most
amazing motion pictures I've ever viewed, but it is one of the most
important films to date. Period. Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate
Winslet) have developed an inseparable friendship whose intimacy is
questioned by their strict parents -- Pauline's being the most stern. As
their lives (and our sentiments) are suddenly torn apart, they decide to run
off together -- but this could mean having to murder someone. I will not go
any further in describing the plot (and I fear that I may already have said
too much), not because I want it to surprise you, but because this film is
so powerful that I would be doing a disservice to it if I tried to describe
it in mere words. Written by Jackson and his real-life spouse, Frances
Walsh, the screenplay for Heavenly Creatures is nothing short of remarkable
(it even garnered the Academy's attention, earning the film's singular
nomination). We both hate and love the two main characters, but most of all
we just want them to be happy, to which Jackson and Walsh ask us the
question, "at what cost?" Their scenes together -- ESPECIALLY the joyous
ones -- are drenched with an unbearable amount of foreboding hopelessness
that makes the inevitable conclusion even more tense. In her debut film
role, Kate Winslet displays much of the potential she fulfilled later on in
her career, but Melanie Lynskey (who has only achieved modest success since)
deserves an equal amount of praise -- if not more. By the time we're sucked
into the story (which doesn't take long), we forget that they're even
acting, and our eyes are peeled to the screen with a voyeuristic intensity
that is utterly discomforting. Jackson's direction is simply stunning: his
visual depiction of the girls' surreal alternate universe is altogether
mesmerizing. Heavenly Creatures is both fascinating and repelling in a way
reminiscent of David Lynch's Blue Velvet. But after having written all this,
I am still brought to the ultimate conclusion that words cannot contain the
experience of viewing this film. There are only a few films that were
genuinely painful for me to watch (Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men and
Kimberly Pierce's Boys Don't Cry among them), but this is certainly such a
film, and I would not recommend it to the faint of heart. This is not a
movie you enjoy (and if you do, you should seek psychiatric help), but it is
one you will never forget; I know I certainly won't.
Based on a true story that took place in New Zealand in the mid-1950s, "Heavenly Creatures" is one of those films that seems tame at first glance, but is full of explosive devices. Co-writer/director Peter Jackson (of "The Lord of the Rings" fame) crafts a highly-disturbing motion picture about two teenaged girls (Melanie Lynsky and Kate Winslet, in the role that put her on the cinematic map) who have a highly potent relationship that is based on their love for literature and their love for a conjured-up fantasy world. Their intense friendship borders the line on a deep obsession as the two become inseparable. Their parents believe that lesbianism may be part of the partnership. Even though there are dream sequences and undertones aplenty to point to that, the girls' friendship does not go that way in real life. As others try to separate them for good, the girls come up with a devious plan to destroy who they feel is the major culprit (Lynskey's mother, played by Kirsti Ferry). The movie goes into a dark place and its somewhat sweet candy-coating tries to hide the fact that this was a truly major incident in a time and place where things like this just did not occur. Jackson was going for something like Peter Weir's equally disturbing "Picnic at Hanging Rock", but ends up creating a film that runs rings around that disappointing work. Jackson's smart direction just enhances a really intelligent Oscar-nominated screenplay. Kate Winslet does truly steal the show from Lynskey who was meant to be the real focal point of the production. A good film that would lead to even better works for the major players involved. 4 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie on a whim. I had no idea what it was about. Earlier in
1994 I had taken a chance on a movie called "Momma's Boys" with Jamie Lee
Curtis, and it was absolutely horrible. But this time the whim paid off.
The movie is edited and directed with a touch of genius. The opening scene is a preview of the climatic scene in the movie. "Good Fellas" also used this technique to create more suspense when the scene is repeated in the normal flow of the movie. The direction and editing mirrors the mental state of the two girls that nearly become one. Kate Winslet's tremendous emotional depth appeals to those of us who are afflicted with the malady of hyper-sensitivity. The other girl, whose name I forget, does rather disappear in her presence, but Winslet's character is supposed to be the driving force, and Winslet, like all great actors, makes the performers around her shine. Because Winslet is the leader of the pair, it is disturbing when the lesser character leads them to do the most unthinkable -- matricide.
The victim of the girls is the most tolerant of the four parents, which creates even more shock when the crime occurs. I was more unhappy with Winslet's character's parents because they don't seem to give a whit for their girl. Feeling alone, the two girls find family with each other, but they take it a bit too deep. They escape into a shared fantasy land where all people become moving golden statues. It is very surreal with Mario Lanza being the golden hero of the dream world and Orson Welles, the claymation villain.
This movie took me to another world in a different way than I had previously experienced with any movie. I loved it. To me it is a 10 out of 10.
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