Heavenly Creatures (1994) Poster

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Not just for teens, this is...well...awesome...
pgreyy16 January 1999
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 belief...

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.
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A disturbing story told with imagination and confidence by a talented director and lead actresses
bob the moo10 July 2004
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.
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Kate Winslet is Oscar worthy!
dusan71118 May 2005
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?!?!??!
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Shocking ... Riveting ... Unforgettable
danenielsen22 October 2004
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.
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Duzniak3829 July 2005
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.
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A Beautiful Haunting Story Of Teenage Obsession
Theo Robertson3 July 2004
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 rabid homophobe

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
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Looming Darkness.
tfrizzell20 July 2002
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.
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An absolute beautiful and haunting Motion Picture, one of the best of the 90s
Red_Identity31 January 2009
I was both really shocked and mesmerized at this film. The film is sort of an open-minded story about a real-life event, told in a fantasy genre. Peter Jackson's direction is simply phenomenal. The way he tells this story, he does not want it to be a regular thriller, or fantasy, he lingers in both. He manages to create a sort of scary, yet beautiful account of this event. The way he captures the girls' imaginations on screen is simply spellbinding. The characters themselves are brought to life so effortlessly, so magically realized, thanks to the magnificent screenplay. Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet are so great together. Their chemistry, their power together, it is so well captured. But it is Kate Winslet who shines more. This was her first big movie role, and I believe it is what started her amazing movie career. She is simply magnificent. She steals every scene she is in. She was robbed of an Oscar nomination for sure. The cinematography of the film is also what caught my eye. The camera-work is done differently than other films. It is so magnificent though, but it might annoy some people who like 'steady' shots.

Overall, I cannot really out into words how extraordinary this film is. It is enough just to see it. It is probably one of the most memorable films of 90s. One of the most haunting. It is a must-see, and probably Peter Jackson's masterpiece(It is altogether more affecting than the Lord of the Rings)
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A cinematic injustice....
sigismond18 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A decade has come and gone since 'Heavenly Creatures' first graced cinema screens. It brought its director, Peter Jackson, and the second leading lady of the film, Kate Winslet, immediate international recognition. Unfortunately, the main leading lady, and indeed the real star of the movie, Melanie Lynskey was a victim of the film's global popularity. She received no publicity of any kind, particularly here in Britain, and remained every bit of the unknown she had been, prior to being discovered. To this day, Lynskey remains unknown in the United Kingdom. She, along with Kate Winslet, brought a hell of a lot of talent to bear when she became her character, but she was treated so shabbily by the people who could have elevated her career, as they had done with Kate Winslet. Her portrayal of Pauline Parker was the most visible sign of her talent. The scenes of friendship, love, passion and their shared hysteria as they commit the murder of Pauline's mother were a testament to Frances Walsh's belief in Lynskey's acting ability. She should have been rewarded with the kind of international success that Kate received. She got nothing, but three years of career-destroying obscurity. Yet, like her friend Drew Barrymore, she came back. Unlike Drew, Lynskey is still flying too low under Hollywood's radar. US and UK celebrity-based magazines have to start noticing and acknowledging her presence on the movie scene.
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Kate's Big Break
Smells_Like_Cheese12 March 2007
I am a huge fan of Kate Winslet, she is my favorite actress of all time, simply because she is possibly the most honest. It seems like she has the most natural talent and when she has a role she embraces it, recently I had a message from a IMDb user who asked me if I saw this film and if I hadn't, I should due to the fact that Kate was amazing in it. I also noticed it in my "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, so I had passed it over at Hollywood Video and figured to give it a look. I noticed also that it was directed by Peter Jackson who is now more famous due to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I thought this film was really over looked and one of his finest. It's incredibly unique, artistic, and disturbing in some ways.

Pauline is a out cast at school and she meets the new girl, Juliet, together they find out that they have a major thing in common, a wile imagination. They want to write a story together, they go as far as to call each other by their story names and spend time with each other constantly. But the parent's concerns grow more and more as the girls become a little more... "obsessive" of each other. Juliet's parents wish to send to her Africa to live with her aunt, but Juliet and Pauline do not want to let go of each other, and Pauline sees only one obstacle keeping them from seeing each other, her mom. So they devise an evil plan to get rid of her mom, permanently.

Heavenly Creatures was incredibly unique and an amazing film. I couldn't believe my eyes watching this film, it was so interesting to watch, especially being in these girl's minds and imagination. Kate and Melanie had great chemistry and Peter Jackson made this film into his own. I would recommend it for movie buffs and definitely if you want to see how Kate got her start, she was amazing.

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Peter Jackson'a most successful early movie.
lewiskendell11 December 2010
"The next time I write in this diary, mother will be dead. How odd, yet how pleasing."

This early writing and directorial effort by Peter Jackson and starring a young Kate Winslet is an odd one to pin down. Especially odd, since it's based on a true story (which I didn't know until the film was over). It's about the intense friendship between two girls living in New Zealand. One is sullen and withdrawn, the other, a wealthy transplant from England, is outspoken and draws attention with her very presence. Both are intelligent, imaginative, and share a similar casual darkness in their personalities. 

As their friendship blooms and grows more and more intense, their parents (this being set in the 50's) begin to suspect an unwholesome aspect to their relationship. When the threat of separation arises, the girls swiftly and resolutely settle on a grisly solution to their forced division: murder.

The movie shifts in tone often, from a sort of coming of age story, to the fanciful world of the girls' imaginations, to their rage and heartbreak at their parents. Kate Winslet was pretty good, but you could tell that she was still finding her way and confidence as an actress. I found the plot to be rather dull at the start, but it grew more interesting as it continued on to a rather abrupt ending. 

Interesting is a good word to use describe Heavenly Creatures, as a whole. It held my attention, even during the parts where I was a little less than entertained. It's unflinchingly dark in some aspects, and innocent and childlike in others. I'd recommend it to most just based on the fact that it's something different, and there's merit in that. It's well-made, also, I just found my interest fluctuating too often to give the movie a higher score. 

And how does Kate Winslet look almost exactly the same today as she did in 1994? Now that's a topic that's interesting enough to make a movie about.
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Peter Jackson needs to go back and start making movies like this again
MovieAddict201623 January 2006
In retrospect, you'd never know this is a Peter Jackson film. Not after becoming familiar with his recent work, anyway. "Heavenly Creatures" contains all the subtlety and nuances that his later work desperately needs - the graceful arc of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, despite its critical lauding, doesn't hold a candle to this film.

Melanie Lynskey plays Pauline, a young girl who, along with her best friend Juliet (Kate Winslet), often envisions herself in fantasy worlds and alternate realities. The two girls' parents become so worried about their fantasies that they separate the two girls - but, in a fit of rage, Melanie and Juliet plan a dreadful revenge.

Most shocking of all is that this story sounds like some lame supernatural thriller that would be on a made-for-TV special, in which the girls share some kind of psychic connection - but it's not like that at all. It's a true story, and it's handled quite delicately.

The performances are, for the most part, very good. Winslet shines in one of her earlier performances and displays raw talent.

Overall, watching this I couldn't help but be reminded of how talented Peter Jackson used to be, and how lately he has succumbed to making, for lack of a better description, Hollywood shlock. I liked "Lord of the Rings." I liked "King Kong." But this is better.
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playground_swing30 July 2004
Warning: 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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The Fourth World of the Third Man
tedg29 April 2003
Perhaps the premier concern of modern filmmakers is locating somewhere in the film exactly where the film-making process is. This is often incorrectly called irony, self-reference or the odd construction of reflexivity. I call it 'folding' and it seems to be everywhere and often in rich and engaging forms. Moreover, it seem to be a central concern of the Australian performing arts community. I imagine it can be traced back to a single person in the seventies on Bennelong Point.

So much of what we have gotten from this tradition has enriched us all, not the least of which are the actresses who master folded acting. That's where we get a portrayal of a character and another simultaneous portrayal of an actor portraying that character. Sometimes the 'character' in these two portrayals isn't quite the same. Three mainstream film actresses today can do this. Two are Australian, and one is Kate.

This is her first film, and it is no surprise at all that the filmmaker has chosen to build a structure that is a representation and is about representation. The original, true story is about two girls, enwrapped in mutual fantasy, probably enhanced by the flush of sex, whose fantastic adventures get out of hand. From this, Jackson reshapes it all. It is now a film about films. Now the girls' fantasy world is a Camelot driven by forces in film. They write. They sculpt characters, based on film characters. Those film characters come 'alive' and form a world in which the girls live in parallel with the real world. So far so good.

But Jackson goes further. Some of the film prototypes are simple characters: Mario Lanza-like. Simple glamour with no pretense or irony. But there is the amazing Orson Welles also. Orson is not pretty, he is not direct, he is a folded prototype himself. The two worlds conflict, and that conflict is reflected in each world. In the Borovnian ('borrow'-nian) world, this is a conflict between two clay figures: the Welles and the Lanza, the winner getting to bed and impregnate both princesses. In the 'real' world, the conflict carries over to the two houses, and even within Juliet's house between the bookish metaphysical father and the sexy 'psychologist- but touchy-feely' mother.

Welles was the one who reinvented the ordinary flat world of film into a melange of folding techniques. The film world since the late forties has been a combination of struggles and syntheses between the forth world of Welles and the simple dramatic stage of Griffith.

Even the very young Kate surfs and exploits these levels with aplomb. Even as a teenager she gives us messages from each of these folds - not at precisely the same time as Julianne would later, but strongly nonetheless.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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a tale of two girls, with a certain passion for life, and each other
Quinoa198424 October 2006
Heavenly Creatures may be the best film I've seen so far from Peter Jackson, even after having gone through the Lord of the Rings, King Kong, even Dead-Alive. His film is loaded with so much that it's hard to classify it as one specific thing, and its psychological complexities make it something special. One way to describe the picture is that it's about the stirring friendship-cum-relationship of Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) in 1950s New Zealand. Another way to describe it is showing the other side, the much darker side, of a coming of age story, where youth have to come to terms with realities, with horrific results. And even another way is that it's another in a big line of independent films that work on the relationship between fantasy and reality, or rather the practical need for abstractions to try and not get too close to the mundane, and then the all too hard to accept realities around the characters.

But there's another way to describe it too that I like best, and that also marks it as something even more special than some might realize- it's one of those rare, sensational takes on what it's like to be in that dreadful cocoon of an age at 14 and 15, when hormones go completely insane, parents are more of an enemy and force to be reckoned with than a helpful, compassionate side like when younger, and at times the world seems like it could end at any moment if something changed for the worse. This is where I think Jackson strikes it hardest and most fulfilling, even as the other descriptions are not un-true at all. In this case, Juliet and Pauline are at that age, and when they first meet they first connect very strongly, being outsiders in their class, though completely in tune with their fantasy life of romanticized worlds, knights, an opera singer, and (some) male movie stars. But this becomes complicated more once they first get briefly separated due to Juliet's illness, and when they meet again there are suspicions from both sides of the family ('homosexuality' is shown in a close-up shot of the mouth of one of the father's saying it, as if it's like the plague), and the dysfunctions of Juliet's side end up drawing things to its very tragic end.

Along with the substance being at a very high quality, of a script that deftly combines the elements of lush fantasy mixing and matching- sometimes without discerning- through a powerful subjective viewpoint, mostly through Pauline, there's unexpected scenes that are touching. For example, there's a scene where she reluctantly loses her virginity to a boarder, and through this she keeps cutting back and forth in her dulled state to clay knights. This is a motif, I suppose, that is expounded upon alongside the narration from Pauline, which adds her subjectivity to a fault. And all the while the objectivity becomes pushed aside, or at least is questioned. What is it to be so different from how everyone in this 1950s time views their uncommon bond? Whether they are or aren't lesbian is up for debate, it's left ambiguous even when its put up-front in the last twenty minutes. And all the while, Jackson directs it stylistically with the same verve he had with his early films, though balancing the wild fantasy with the grounded reality; he's even playful with it, however dark, which includes a great tip-of-the-hat to Orson Welles and the Third Man.

All the while, too, the performances by the two leads are stellar. It's actually shocking to see Lynskey not get better roles since, as her Pauline is totally defined and made real and, at least in some sort of emotional way at times, relatable or sympathetic. Winslet, meanwhile, has one of her best here, as the more outward one personality-wise of the two, who is even more immersed in the fantasy than Pauline, but has a vulnerability that is crushing. Everything combines together then- the direction, the writing, the performances and the actual mixed psychology behind it, and it becomes quite memorable. It's not a very easy picture to watch at times, and its implications are disturbing, but it has more guts and determination to tell its story full-on than many others I can think of. A+
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"Only the best people fight against all obstacles in the pursuit of happiness."
Anonymous_Maxine29 May 2008
Besides being, to me, a fascinating although eccentric look at an example of every day life in 1950s New Zealand (one of only two or three places in the world that I have wanted to visit all my life), Heavenly Creatures is also the first movie that really shows that talent of Peter Jackson, which may have been overshadowed in his previous career by the sheer quantity of blood and guts that he packed into his earliest films. I have read that a lot of people were initially put off by the premise of an intense loving relationship between two teenage girls, but it should be noted that their relationship, if sexual at all, is sexual in a purely symbolic way. If nothing else, Jackson has made a stupendous achievement of making a film about this relationship and completely preventing any sense of eroticism from creeping up.

The movie tells the shocking true story of two teenage girls who crushed the skull of one of their mothers with a rock, and what led them to commit such a heinous crime. My understanding is that the story is told with a great deal of creative liberties, but the focus is on a kind of friendship that few people ever find. Two girls with strengths and weaknesses that perfectly complement each other, who run through the world at full speed giggling with glee as if unable to understand the pure happiness that they feel when they are together.

Soon, various events come in the way of their friendship. Melanie Lynskey plays Pauline, and Kate Winslet, in her first film role, plays Juliet, who is noticeably horrified when her parents bring up the prospect of leaving the country for a mere three weeks. While separated, they write each other elaborate letters, describing events that take place in an imaginary world that they have created together. When the separations become longer (and more obviously because of parents' misguided (?) concerns about a homosexual relationship), their efforts to remain together become more and more desperate.

As they say, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers, or even the power and danger of a couple of teenage girls bent on maintaining their friendship. People are dangerous in groups, even groups of two (I realize, just this second, that tomorrow morning I have three classes of university students preparing to give final exam presentations in groups of two and three. I hope I haven't made a horrible mistake!!).

Complicating matters for Pauline and Juliet are four wildly unhelpful parents. Juliet's mother is distracted by her disintegrating marriage and futile affairs while her professional father is benevolent and professional but both hapless and helpless, while Pauline's mother is over- controlling and militant about her discipline, and her father seems to just want the whole thing to go away. The parents and the children are pulling in opposite directions, and they pull harder and harder and harder until finally the rope snaps, as it must.

There are a number of truly impressive and memorable sections of the film, such as the presentation of the imaginary world that Pauline and Juliet have created together, particularly the clay characters that populate it. These things make it a movie that is difficult to categorize but easy to remember, and they show a sense of visual style that Jackson later went on to develop even further in the Lord of the Rings films and King Kong. Some say that he will never be able to top the Lord of the Rings movies, but personally I think he still has a few things up his sleeve. We can hope, anyway.

Note – it's well known that the real life Juliet has been revealed to be the successful murder mystery novelist Anne Perry, which is a perfect ending to her story (although I would have expected Pauline to become the writer). Also, Melanie Lynksey has had a surprisingly successful acting career, appearing in many successful films, including a periodic role as the slightly crazy but immensely attractive Rose on 2 ½ Men.
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My All-Time Favorite Movie
Peaches3111 June 2003
I must preface this review by saying that "Heavenly Creatures" is my all-time favorite movie. I say that mainly because certain aspects of it remind me of my own youth. I am not a lesbian or a murderer, but I enjoy writing and had a few close friends when I was younger that shared my passion. We created characters and whole worlds, and yes, even the occassional alter ego. Watching "Heavenly Creatures" brought a tear to my eye because I could relate to the close friendship of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. It also made me cry because of where they ended up and also how unfairly their friendship was viewed by their families.

Every time I watch this movie, I want to jump into the TV and stop the characters from their heinous actions. I want the movie, and their true lives, to end up differently, but of course that never will happen. This is a bittersweet film that is filled with sharp dialogue (some of it coming from Pauline Parker's actual journal), as well as amazing actors. I think Melanie Lynsky, who plays Pauline, has yet to get the recognition she deserves for her awesome acting skills, and Kate Winslet is 100 times better in "Heavenly Creatures" than she was in Titanic (the movie for which everyone seems to remember).

To sum this up, "Heavenly Creatures" is a unique and incredible film that will tug at your heartstrings while breaking your heart at the same time.
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I kept watching, thinking it HAD to get better. It didn't.
StarRider4014 August 2001
Call me odd, but I thought this was a complete waste of my time. I tried watching it once and got about 1/3 of the way through before I turned it off. Then I decided to give it another chance, figuring it had to improve. It didn't. I understand that this was a true story and was, most likely, shocking to the community. I will also agree that it did, in fact, show the inner workings of an obviously insane mind (or minds). Nevertheless, I was bored out of mine.
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I saw this in the theater when it came out and thought meh. 25 years later I'm like OMG BRILLIANT
rooprect26 April 2019
This film may take a while to sink in (for me it took 25 years), so don't expect to be absolutely riveted, spellbound, rapturous, or blown away in a sea of brilliance like a lot of the superlative critics' reviews may lead you to believe. Instead, if you decide to watch this, take it for what it is and let it sink in.

That said, it is truly a well designed film. Based on the true events in 1954 New Zealand of a pair of 15 year old girls who hatch a diabolical scheme (which I won't spoil in case you have no idea of the backstory), this creative telling takes us through the off-kilter reality of the two teen girls Pauline & Juliet as they indulge their fantasy imaginations to the point that it becomes... well... watch the movie.

As the story progresses and the 2 girls dive deeper into their imagined world, the film becomes more surreal, frequently escaping into complete fantasy territory with castles, unicorns and homicidal princes made of clay. Special effects are basic but very effective. And the result is a story that's thoroughly engaging both with its writing as well as its visual presentation.

The acting is stellar featuring a debut performance by Kate Winslet, age 18, as "Juliet". Her counterpart "Pauline" was played by Melanie Lynskey who was 16 at the time and did a great job of bringing to life the rather amoral problem child who evolves from introversion into outright psychopathy.

But don't expect too many scares, jumps, action and exploding helicopters because like I said, this is a subtle film. And I give it huge points for the way it handled violence in a very disturbing, NON-glorifying way. Seriously, after seeing that scene you'll want to retire any violent criminal plans you may have and instead take up poetry or something. Its' quite upsetting (and rightfully so) which is something very few filmmakers can achieve.

I highly recommend this film to be watched twice. Let it sink in. The second time will really be the charm.
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Heavenly and Hellish; an amazing story of a friendship which results in death
inkblot117 August 2018
In 50's New Zealand, Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) had a rare bone disease as a child, with leg scars. She has no friends at an exclusive girls' school, which her struggling parents can barely afford. They take in boarders, for Pauline is bright. One momentous day, Paul's class gets a new student, imaginative Juliet (Kate Winslet), who is wealthy, intelligent, creative and outspoken. Because Juliet, too, has weak lungs and spent 5 years separated from her family in a warmer climate, the girls have a bond that begins a close friendship. Both girls love Mario Lanza and play-acting. In fact, they envision their own special heaven called The Fourth World, which has knights, princesses, and an elaborate landscape. Both the well-to-do family of Juliet and the poor one of Pauline are extremely concerned about the closer-than-close ties between the two girls. There are other family secrets afoot, too, which eventually result in Juliet's family planning to move away and in Pauline's mother taking steps to separate the girls. But, this results in a tragedy beyond comprehension for two young ladies driven into madness by their own imaginations and strong wills. This amazing film is one for the ages. Not only are the two young performers, Winslet and Lynskey, touching and horrifying beyond their years. but the creative landscapes, real and imagined, are superlative. Also fine are the supporting cast, the tantalizing script (based on true events), and the superb direction by Jackson. Don't miss this heavenly and hellish journey into New Zealand's most notorious crime of the twentieth century.
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Great, understated, enthralling drama
grantss9 May 2015
Great, understated, enthralling drama, based on a true story.

A few years before Peter Jackson sold out and started making 9-hour 3-part fantasy movies for kids and nerds, he made this great drama, which is still, to date, his best film.

Set in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1953-54, the movie tells the story of two friends, schoolgirls with incredible imaginations. This, and their friendship, shapes their lives, and the lives of those around them, though, ultimately, not in a pleasant way.

Great build-up by Jackson. You see the relationship between the girls develop, and how their imaginations grow more and more active, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

Quite funny at times too.

Superb performances by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in the lead roles. Winslet was only 18 at the time and this was her first cinematic role. She is fantastic - her exuberance and funny-yet- nonchalant antics are a sight to behold.

Good supporting cast too.
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"Treat yourself, Mum!" ... and "treat yourself, viewer!"
twilliams7613 July 2011
Heavenly Creatures is Peter Jackson's (of The Lord of the Rings fame) BEST film! Before Mr. Jackson was a multi (3 of em!) Academy Award winning filmmaker he was already an Oscar nominee for this movie.

Heavenly Creatures is a very small independent New Zealand film that few outside of the movie meccas of Los Angeles and New York City saw, knew about, or had access to upon its original release in 1994.

Heavenly Creatures contains very-grim, difficult subject matter that is perhaps all-the-more troublesome because it was based on a startling 1954, real-life event. It is a compelling, mesmerizing, bone-chilling, stunning and astonishing piece of film that I must say is one of the best I have ever seen (and I have seen A LOT of movies). The film is about two highly imaginative and intelligent teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme played by two actresses making their glorious feature film debuts: the great Melanie Lynskey (Up In the Air, Sweet Home Alabama, Ever After) and a sensational Kate Winslet (Titanic, Sense & Sensibility, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) in two captivating, stars-are-born performances whose intense, potent friendship draws deep concern from both sets of parents (and for good reason ... ask Mrs. Parker!).

The girls saw themselves as "heavenly creatures" who, alone, were able to enter into a magical realm -- the Fourth World -- populated by beings (Kings, Queens, Princes, roguish knaves and giant butterflies) of their own creation. New Zealand was shocked and stunned by what came from this friendship that was going to be terminated as Juliet was going to be forced to leave Christchurch, New Zealand (with her father) and live with relatives in South Africa (as he returned to their native England). Actual diary entries of Pauline's help construct and recreate the horrific sequence of events that lead to the gruesome climax of the film that takes place in a peaceful and serene Christchurch city park.

The scene is both visually and audibly unforgettable as it is a beautifully sequenced/choreographed descent (in more ways than one) into a park valley by three individuals that is scored by Puccini's slow and innocent, beautifully enchanting "The Humming Chorus" that hypnotizes the viewer until it is marred by a crunch/thud, some blood-curdling groans and several more crushing shrieks! And, again ... this is ALL based upon true, actual events! I have never seen a film like this before (it is beautiful, imaginative, grisly, unsettling and dark) -- and it is awe-inspiring (at the artistic-level) knowing of the talent found in front of and behind the camera. Heavenly Creatures is a divine 42 out of 10.

It is most definitely NOT a movie for all audiences; but for those who enjoy film (REAL film lovers) it must not be missed.
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Creatures In 4th World
Chrysanthepop17 April 2011
Based on the murder of Honora Parker and her daughter's diary, 'Heavenly Creatures' tells the harrowing story of two teenagers, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker Rieper. It's a character driven film that starts off with Pauline as an odd teenager who's a bit of a social outcast. Enters a new English student who's vivacious, funny, creative and 'gets' Pauline. This marks the start of a friendship that turns into a disturbing bond leading to tragic consequences. The story stays focused on these two key characters, delving into their psyche while also showing how their relationship with others affect them. The voice-over is a brilliant touch as those are read from the real diary, adding some authenticity, while providing further insight into the girl's mind.

Peter Jackson has been known to be a very imaginative director and he beautifully uses his imagination in this film, especially in the fantasy sequences of the teenagers. 'Heavenly Creatures' was made before the CGI revolution and yet the fantasy scenes look so surreal. In addition, the excellent cinematography and score help set up the atmosphere. Jackson has always been fond of his country and once again he has captured the natural beauty of New Zealand effectively.

Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet are terrific in their very first performances. They bring a certain freshness and sincerity (as they themselves were teenagers at the time) in the way they play their characters. They are supported by a strong cast of actors, especially Sarah Peirse.

'Heavenly Creatures' is vintage Peter Jackson before the 'Lord of the Rings' buzz. As stunning as it is to look at, it's not an easy film to watch but certainly a worthy one.
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powerful depiction of increasingly delusional teenage friendship
tnrcooper7 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Heavenly Creatures" is the film that brought Peter Jackson his most mainstream acclaim before a suite of little films which you may have heard of, "The Lord of the Rings". It's the story of teenagers Juliet Hulme (capably played by Kate Winslet) and Pauline Parker (expertly played by Melissa Lynskey) who became increasingly close and created a virtual world in which they seemed increasingly involved. Their detachment from reality culminated finally in the murder of Parker's mother, a hard-working housewife (thoughtfully and sensitively played by Sarah Peirse) who was very concerned about her middle child's increasing involvement in an all-encompassing, baffling relationship with Hulme.

The acting here, most especially from Lynskey and Peirse, is very good. It is difficult to ground oneself as a real person in such a fantastic case, but Peirse and Lynskey, as well as Winslet do that expertly. Lynskey's Pauline is the quieter and more pliant, to outward appearances, of the two girls. Lynskey captures Pauline's introversion with body language that conveys the fact that there is a lot going on inside her, but that she doesn't feel comfortable talking about it. Peirse plays her mother Honora, and like any mother of a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl, she casts about for ways to remain connected to her while also allowing the girl to become an individual. Peirse's Honora seems very decent, hard- working, and concerned about her daughter. However, she is also aware, at a deep level, that something is not right with her daughter and her relationship with Hulme. However, it seemed to me that because she is less-educated than Hulme that she could not articulate the nature of her concerns as well as the Hulmes could have done (but did not).

Winslet is also excellent as the more outgoing and seemingly more well-adjusted of the two girls. She is the leader, the girl who would be blamed for kids' exploits, because she would be the one to lead the way. However, in spite of Juliet's outward vivacity, when she is left by her parents to receive treatment for tuberculosis while they go to England for a conference, the depth of her pain seems deep. Her parents do not recognize this and it seems to me this is one of the biggest reasons for this tragedy. In reading the comments, this does not seem to have been widely addressed as a cause of the tragedy, but to me it seems clear. Juliet, for all her outward bravado, is still a child and obviously needs a lot of attention, or at least quite a bit more than her parents give her. Her mother (well-played by Diana Kent), a psychotherapist who believes that the vast majority of problems will work themselves out, does not recognize the exception to this (questionable) rule going on right beneath her nose. This (wilful) ignorance might have cost Honora her life. Her husband Henry (played well by Clive Merrison) is an academic whose professional obligations keep him from seeing what is going so desperately wrong with his daughter. Both the Hulmes, it seemed to me, bore more responsibility for the girls' rapidly increasing separation from reality. They both had more professional expertise which could have enabled more plausibly, their intervention in this tragic situation. That said, that is not to excessively blame the Hulmes over the Parkers but simply to point out that the Hulmes might have had some of the tools necessary to address the particular challenges which the girls had created via their fantasy world.

Peter Jackson's imagination, as revealed in his direction of some wryly self-aware splatterfests, could well be a significant reason why he got this job. He recognized the power of imagination, whether used for good or ill. His performance on this movie is almost certainly the main reason he was entrusted to bring the "Lord of the Rings" books to the screen. The girls conjure up a world with its own religious traditions, monarchy, mores, ancestry, and regional rivalries. Jackson, while the girls become increasingly detached from reality, depicts the world in terms of their alternate reality, rather than what is actually happening around them. The merging of fantasy and reality is very skillfully depicted. Jackson deserves a lot of credit for not allowing such a fantastic story to dominate the direction of the film. He expertly balances the growing friendship of the girls, the relevant elements of their lives with their families, and the efforts that both families made to address the problem, as they understood it.

In the movie, as the girls get further and further removed from reality, whether they know it or not, their fantasy world is increasingly depicted by Jackson and his staff as the site of much of the action. The subtle way in which the fantasy world is increasingly the location of action, at least as seen through the girls' eyes, is perhaps Jackson's great accomplishment. He definitely deserves a lot of credit for envisioning a story in which such a graphic action is the centerpoint but yet grounding the film, still, in a tragic, recognizable reality.
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Girls will be girls
richard_sleboe3 November 2007
Teenage soul mates Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) live in a world all their own. But this world is under constant siege from adults interfering with their increasingly somber whims and vagaries. The girls find themselves stalked by faceless demons and clay-clad monsters; we never really learn whether it's all just inside their heads. Orson Welles haunts their life like a ghost, risen from the dead partly by way of vintage footage inter-cut with Jackson's own material, Carl Reiner style. But "Heavenly Creatures" provides entirely unexpected thrills well beyond its unique cinematography and editing. Anything but mere child's play, the plot (based on a true story) is as engaging as it is unsettling. More than a decade after its original release, it also provides an opportunity to travel back in time and witness Kate Winslet's big-screen debut in one of the finer samples of Peter Jackson's work. Her spirited performance helps you forget the truckloads of crap she has appeared in since, and makes you want to revisit "Eternal Sunshine" or "Romance & Cigarettes". Seen with your kids, "Heavenly Creatures" might even help you bridge the gap in time and imagination when you had thought they were lost to you forever. Notable guest appearances by Stephen Reilly as Mario Lanza and Jean Guerin as Orson Welles.
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