Suburban Mayhem Reviews
That's not to say this is the only Australian film I'm a fan of (The King and of course, The Castle help in that area) but it won me over quicker than either of those.
The film details the life of Katrina Skinner (Emily Barclay, who is able to play such a dark, repulsive woman despite little experience in film like she's turning a light switch on and off) and is also filmed in part like a "documentary" (I say it in air quotes since I don't want people thinking this is based on true events) about her, involving events towards the end of the film which I won't go into since it might spoil the movie.
Katrina's an uncontrollable, self-absorbed party girl with criminal tendencies... and a mother. Yep, that's an oil/water mixture right there. The mother part is important since over the film, many people ask her about her child and why she doesn't see her more often.
In short, she's a bogan. For overseas readers, bogan is Australia's counterpart to the USA's "trailer trash" and the UK's "chavs".
Despite my contempt for the character, I highly praise Emily Barclay for her performance. Still quite new to films, she has to carry a majority of this film and play someone so easy to hate and like I said, she pulls it off with ease. I wonder what surprises she'll pull out on us in the future, perhaps something to make this look like child's play.
Another high point of note for me is the music. Rock songs with female vocalists, most I'm familiar with and all welcome. Added bonus, most of them are Australian (Suzi Quatro being the most notable exception I care to make but hey, if I can hear 48 Crash, I'm not one to complain). During a scene in a shopping centre, the song Paco Doesn't Love Me by The Spazzys can be heard and later on in the film, we can hear Little Birdy's song This Is A Love Song. Australia may not be all that great in the film industry but when it comes to music, we've got a few aces up our sleeve.
I hope it's not too long before another Australian film overwhelms me like Suburban Mayhem. I still need to get the thoughts of The Book Of Revelation exorcised from my mind.
Played by a solid Emily Barclay, the spoilt, manipulative Katrina's only apparent motivation for her tangled web of actions is an apparent incestuous loyalty to her brother (an excellent Laurence Bruels), but this in itself doesn't convince as a justification for the proceedings. Supporting performances are quite fine in this sometimes quirky piece (Anthony Hayes, Robert Morgan, Genevieve Lemon and Steve Bastoni all deliver the goods) but the end result, whilst competently made, is nothing special.
Her name is Katrina (Emily Barclay), and she's a woman out-of-control. At the young age of 19, she's already had one child, and could easily be pregnant with another. Her brother is in jail for slicing the head off a convenience store employee, her father is struggling with her bad habits, and her baby is probably getting lung problems from all the second-hand smoke from Katrina and her boyfriend, Rusty (Michael Dorman). She's found out the life isn't easy, although she isn't helping gain anyone's favor with her antics.
We find out that her father has been killed, and Katrina is suspect number one. The film has a bunch of interviews with family, friends and other contacts, that's supposed to give us insight into her life. We see the funeral for her father, and we learn that we also have an interview with our lead character to listen to. And then we get a ton of dramatizations of the events leading up to her father's death, finding out exactly what happened to bring us to this point in Katrina's life.
What you see likely won't surprise you, but it might revolt and repel you. What Katrina does with her life isn't something that most people aspire for, except for getting out of work whenever possible. She's a lazy narcissist as far as I can work out, using everyone she can in order to get what she wants: Drugs, sexual pleasure, cigarettes, baby supplies and her brother out of jail. Her motivations couldn't be more basic, although the life she lives would likely lead to her being imprisoned just like her brother is.
That is, if the police would actually do something about it. Despite the fact that everyone knows what she's doing, and a lot of people are trying to help her, the police rarely get involved. We meet a Detective named Andretti (Steve Bastoni), but he mostly just sits around getting verbally abused by Katrina. He also provides footage for the interview segments, where he details how Katrina decided to target his family, and not just him.
That's about as much as I can recall, and it's also all that really matters. We already have the end told to us: Her father is dead, and she is who everyone thinks did it. Would her saying that she didn't make any difference? Even if we get to see what truly happened, surely the police wouldn't have the technology to enter her mind like we can. And then there's also the unreliable narrator storytelling technique to think about. Can we, and can the characters, believe anything that she says? Or anything that other people say? I'm not so sure.
What this leads to is not caring much about anything that's going on. We don't really get to see Katrina's decline into the degenerate that she becomes, instead seeing her for a while as a slightly innocent child, and then she becomes awful. She's not a likable character, but more importantly, she's also not an interesting one. She's a one-trick pony, and that trick isn't all that impressive to begin with.
Because there's no reason to want to watch the lead character, I found myself drifting off while watching Suburban Mayhem. I had trouble concentrating on watching this person destroy her life, as well as the lives of people close to her. She's the worst kind of person -- one who abuses the goodwill of other people, causing them to suffer -- and it's because of this that she would get caught at every turn, or that those close to her would just stop helping. But because she's good at being manipulative, people just allow her to be, while fueling her bad habits. They're what psychologists call "enablers", which means we can't really sympathize with them either.
The saddest part about Suburban Mayhem is the fact that stories like Katrina's really do occur in real life. While I doubt this is supposed to be a biopic, I'm sure that it rings true to the lives of a lot of people. With that said, do we really need a movie adaptation of it? This is an especially pressing question when we don't get any reason to care about the characters. Movies about lives being destroyed can be very good, but you need something to make you care. This is a film without any such reason, and as a result, I wanted to stop watching.
I didn't enjoy Suburban Mayhem, but it wasn't even a memorable displeasure. It's far blander than a film with this kind of content should be, and since I didn't care about the character, and the story is already finished by the time we enter, with us only getting possibly untrue flashbacks, there wasn't anything to hold my attention. I was simply bored, while also revolted by the fact that the story told here could actually take place. At least in real life, characters have more depth than shown here. Real life would be more fun to watch.
Anyway, this film tells the story of Katrina Skinner, a 19 year-old girl with a baby, a brother in jail for murder, no mother and a dad that's desperately trying to control her. But Katrina is all about sex, stealing, drugs and mayhem. And that's where this movie fails. It's actually put together pretty well, but the protagonist is someone that we simply can't care about. We can't even care enough about her to like her as an anti-hero. She's just a spoiled bitch that will do whatever she has to to get what she wants. And what she wants is her father dead so that she can use her inheritance for her brother's appeal. So she talks a dim-witted boyfriend into doing the deed. Nice girl, no?
This movie is trash, but, as I said, it's pretty well done. Imagine a lower-case Spike Jonze making a "loving portrait" of Aileen Wuornos and you'll get the idea.