Heavenly Creatures - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Heavenly Creatures Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 27, 2010
This disturbing take on a set of real events comes to life from director Peter Jackson, at the time the master of horror-comedy. Set and filmed in New Zealand and starring newcomers Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, the film propelled the former into stardom and started a fast track for the other to become a character actress. The story is one of a deep connection, a flawed outlook on life, a friendship that shifts with their sick lives, and the murderous intent of two girls who have drove themselves into the depths of madness. Based on the true story of the Parker-Hulme murder of two teenage girls killing one of their mothers so they could stay together in a fantastical imagination land that the two of them built, it exacts a macabre and cruel vengeance over the viewer. Fusing Claymation, horror, and the inner follies of the two girls over their partnership and eventual murder plans, Jackson uses voice over narration from Parker's own diary to infuse bitter resentment throughout the film. Winslet is a bright star in her own right, her true debut and the propellant to her eventual fame. Here she is carefree, enigmatic, and obviously disturbed as a power hungry vigilante in her dreams. Lynskey is dark and the epitome of brooding, as she time and again is taken away from the object of her desire: Hulme. She fights with her mother, and obviously is getting ready to do the mischievous deed. This differs from many biopics because it's far more centered on the buildup to infamy than the aftermath. Their relationship is so steeped in exclusivity and demonic insight into their madness and the co-dependence that led to their irresponsible and juvenile decision to flee the country for famedom and be together forever. It's a beautiful and inviting film, even if you want to rescind it immediately.
Super Reviewer
½ November 12, 2012
From the first scenes, showing 2 young teen girls running through a forest as the camera alternates between a 3rd person view of the girls to following them crashing through the brush, and then juxtaposing the action with a black and white visage of the same girls running along the deck of a ship, Peter Jackson gives notice that this is his picture and he is in full command of what you will bear witness to and how he chooses to present it.

Based on a true story of two teens, the story (in a script co-penned by Jackson) uses actual passages of one of the girl's diary, making the events surreal and real at the same time.

Jackson lets you enter into the lives and thoughts of these two bright, but seemingly broken girls, full of romantic adolescence while still looking at real life straight on. The camera gives perspective, with surprises of extreme close ups mixed with a million camera angles - letting you know that there is art behind the telling of this only slightly interesting story that occasionally straddles the line of melodrama. In fact, I felt that it was Jackson's art lifted the film from the mid morass of teen films into something much more profound; offering flights of fancy, both in film technique and in the fantasy world that the two girls create.

Jackson smartly used film techniques true to the period in which the action takes place, giving us an oft times off putting glimpse into the mores of 1950's New Zealand (which so much echo the sentiments of England and the US of the day). In using scenes from Orson Welles' The Third Man, he cements the relationship between his own film and those films and techniques of the period, while using the girl's fascination with Mario Lanza (the great tenor of that period), to equally good use.

Of course, for the film buffs, this film also has the added attraction of being the film that introduces the world to the acting chops of Kate Winslett, who, as one of the 14 year old girls, gives a gifted performance, even while playing second fiddle to the always brooding Melanie Lynskey.

The film fails to achieve true greatness as it meanders and loses focus a bit in the last third of the film, but then, with the conclusion and a review of the opening scenes, you see how it all ties together and that Jackson had a wonderful vision for the film going in, making this so much more than a story of a murder, but a fine character study that aptly delves into the psyche of adolescent young women.
Super Reviewer
September 28, 2007
After making a few crazy and awesome splatstick horror comedies, Peter Jackson went into dramatic territory with this movie based on the true story of one of the most infamous crimes in New Zealand history.

Set in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1953 and 1954, this is the story of Paulina Parker and Juliet Hulme, two offbeat teen schoolgirls who don't really fit in with anyone but each other. Their friendship starts off innocently enough, but their connection soon becomes a little too intense, and their attachment to one another, and the shared fantasy world that they create for themselves begins to take hold, sometimes overriding reality, and this becomes a cause for concern that soon leads to shocking and tragic ends.

This is a prestige picture, and, while it mostly is based in reality, there are bits of fantasy, yet they are blended into everything else in such a way that they don't stick out, and really feel pretty natural in the overall scheme of things, much like how things are in The King of Comedy. This is a wonderfully gripping, haunting, and sometimes rather creepy coming-of-age thriller story.

I don't feel like it is a full on masterpiece as some do, but I do think it is very well played, extremely compelling and attention holding. The direction is really sharp, and there's some great visual effects that are very well played. The script is pretty solid, though not quite razor level. The true highlight would definitely be the acting, where we get the film debuts of both Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, both of whom absolutely knock it out of the park and deliver some brilliant work. They are both intense, smoldering, and display an amazing flair for the craft, which is really more amazing since this is their feature debuts. When the shat hits the fan, and things get real, they get quite chilling, and the results are thoroughly unforgettable.

The wide angle lens closeups of faces does get somewhat overbearing and maybe isn't the most necessary thing in the world, but thankfully its not distracting enough to warrant docking it too many points. Overall this is a quite strong film, and I would love it if Jackson went back and made a few more films in this ilk.

Definitely give this one a look. It's some spectacular stuff.
Market Man
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2012
Peter Jackson strays from his typical slapstick/horror genre and attempts something more dramatic. It's a good effort, but the entire film is too weird for my taste. The story is true though, which does make everything a bit more interesting. There's also some great acting.
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2009
Hmmm well it seems I'm in the minority but to call this a masterpiece is way of the mark for me. I'm not a fan of most drama's. When they are good they can be brilliant and among my favourite films. This was just a bit too surreal and odd. Based on a true crime in New Zealand in the 50's. It gets very strange later on as the relationship and madness intensifies! If you like wacky films or odd dramas you might love it, but it's not for me.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2012
In one of the strangest movies I have ever seen, Paulina (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) meet each other against all odds, and realize they have the same interests and offbeat personalities. They decide to create an entirely new world, to escape the world that they believe they do not belong. Family and health issues get involved and they must spend time apart. This is insanely hard for them to accomplish, and when they do get back together, they begin to see their true "love" forever. Paulina keeps a diary of every event since they met, and this eventually becomes evidence that will, in the future, destroy their lives. This film is bizarre, brilliantly written, and perfectly casted, but I can not help but question some of the scenes that seems kind of random. "Heavenly Creatures" is a magnificent story that could have been altered in post-production, but for what it is, i absolutely love it!
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2010
Genuinely disturbing with some fine performances. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
½ December 8, 2011
Pauline:  We realised why Deborah and I have such extraordinary telepathy and why people treat us and look at us the way they do. It is because we are MAD. We are both stark raving MAD! 

"The true story of a crime that shocked a nation."

This early drama from Peter Jackson is a tremendous and haunting look at a friendship gone horribly wrong. The film is notable for many reasons, one of which is that it is the film debut for Kate Winslet. She shows the huge talent she would become early on. It's also the debut of Melanie Lynskey. She didn't become as a huge a star as Kate Winslet, but she was phenomenal here. Bothe actresses pull their characters off to near perfection and that's really what the film depended on. 

Two girls start a friendship; one a quiet type, the other a loud and confident, if rather annoying girl. The friendship starts off as your normal run of the mill friendship. Two people with similar interests meet and enjoy those interests together. They do art together, listen to music, write and soon create a whole fantasy world that they begin to live in more then their normal life. This grabs the attention of the parents and through the girls rebellion, a shocking crime takes place. 

This may not be Peter Jackson's best film, but I believe it to be his best directing job. He weaves the true life story into an amazing film by diving into the girls friendship more than the actual crime. He let's their twisted friendship lead us to the shocking conclusion, instead of just making the movie all about the murder. The movie isn't hard to watch like you would think from the subject matter. That is, until the last few minutes.

Heavenly Creatures is a one of a kind crime film that really elevated Peter Jackson to a whole new level as a filmmaker. Who could have guessed that he would reach a whole new stratosphere years later. 
Super Reviewer
½ October 8, 2010
This was great! A devastating, yet utterly beautiful film!

After Peter Jackson's masterpieces, The Lord of the Rings, I became interested in his previous work, especially Heavenly Creatures. I am so glad I finally saw this because it is brilliant. It follows the lives of two girls who develop a close relationship after creating an imaginary world.

The first thing that stood out to me was the acting. This was the debut film for Melanie Lynsky and Kate Winslet, and what a debut it was! They both give phenomenal performances here. Both deserved Oscar nominations for this, and I am surprised not even one of them was nominated. The level of emotion and conflict they show is just unbeleivable, they really make this film as effective as it is. Also, Sarah Peirse gives a fantastic performance as the mother.

The second thing was the direction...Peter Jackson is brilliant! This easily could have been a mess. There were times in the beginning of the film where I kept that thought in the back of my mind, I was like "there's no way anyone could pull this film off, it's crazy!" I was completely wrong. There is so much that needed to be developed...the relationship of the girls, the real world, the fantasy world, the conflict in the parents. But it was all developed, this film is deep. This is the one thing that really made this film work for me.

Another thing that I really liked was how horrific and beautiful the film was. It really blew me away!

A stunning film by director Peter Jackson!
Super Reviewer
December 29, 2009
"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.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2009
A tragic true story artfully presented by director Peter Jackson. I was completely taken in by the whimsical yet ominous integration of fantasy and reality. An off-beat coming of age drama pontooned by the enormous talents of Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet.
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2010
Melanie Lynskey is the true star of this film. Her scowls and growls are just so unattractive (in a good way). I'm a little disappointed that she's now chewing the scenery on "Two and a Half Men." I think Kate Winslet is rather good NOW, but I'm not a fan of her earlier films. Part of that has to do with the fact that she has looked like a middle-aged woman since she was 17 probably. She looks too old for this role, and she oversells Juliet's fey wackiness. The clay people are pretty cool.
Super Reviewer
November 14, 2006
Juliet Hulme: Only the best people fight against all obstacles in pursuit of happiness.

A well made, well scripted drama, combined with fantasy elements, from director Peter Jackson. A strong departure from Jackson, who up until this point had been making horror-splatter-comedies, and would only go on to large scale epics with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here, he has made a film focused on more thematic elements about characters, which combined with his visual style, makes for a very interesting film.

Pauline Parker, played by Melanie Lynskey, and Juliet Hulme, played by Kate Winslet (both girls in their debut roles), met in school during the 1950s in New Zealand. Instant best friends, they proceeded to spend every minute possible together, often writing about a fantasy land of their own invention. More and more estranged from their respective families, the two girls realize that they are extremely different from most other people, and agree to take any steps necessary to ensure that they are not separated. The two families grow increasingly concerned about the girls' friendship, questioning how close they actually may be, resulting in the direct plans to separate them. The result is where the true story actually ends, with the girls planning to murder Pauline's mother.

Of course this is a dramatic retelling of the actual elements, but beyond being based off the true story, a lot of elements from the real life happenings have been incorporated into this film. Many scenes were filmed in the exact locations, the narrated segments are all actual passages from Pauline's diary, and even the fantasy elements are portrayed as the two girls had written them. These elements combined with the strong scripting by Jackson and his partner/producer Fran Walsh work very well to convey the story.

As far as Jackson's visual sense goes, this has the kind of signature camera style that can easily be attributed to a specific director. I always had Jackson pegged as the Southern Hemisphere version of Sam Raimi. Both had similar career paths and a specific visual style that can be instantly recognized. Here, Jackson's very cinematic camera usage is mixed with his first use of WETA, which he basically founded. The effects work in this film is quite neat to portray some of the fantasy aspects.

Performances by the two actresses are quite strong, and while Winslet rose to quite obvious fame, I'm glad to see Lyskey popping up in roles quite often as well.

Well made, dark tale.

Pauline Parker: The next time I write in this diary, Mother will be dead. How odd... yet how pleasing.
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2009
Wonderfully imaginative and impressive film that Peter Jackson ever made in this based on a true story of two girls' fantasy life. 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 Parker's diary, and explain very well what exactly is going on inside of her head.
Melanie Lynskey delivers a brave performance - giddy, childish, frightening, sexual, clouded. She's everything Christina Ricci pretends to be. Kate Winslet is superb as Juliet - beautiful, hyper-bright and wonderful.
Super Reviewer
July 6, 2007
An incredibly bleak subject matter shaped with beautiful poetic imagery.
Super Reviewer
½ April 20, 2009
"The true story of a crime that shocked a nation."

Two girls have an intense fantasy life; their parents, concerned the fantasy is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.

A beautifully disturbing film, "Heavenly Creatures" combines style, imagination, flawless acting and a seamlessly written story. I understand that a film such as this can be too intense for some viewers, but this does not affect its quality or significance. Peter Jackson uses his horror film background to erect a dramatically twisted tragedy that barely misses being perfect. For the audience, the experience is like putting on a pathological suit, where you walk in the footsteps of near crazy and then jump over to the other side. Remarkably though, Jackson manages to maintain a balance where the viewer does not lose sympathy for any characters, therefore making the tragic turn much more devastating. If you want to be a filmmaker, if you are a Peter Jackson fan, or if you just wanna see a powerfully unique film, "Heavenly Creatures" must be seen.
Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2009
An wonderful depiction of Jackson's cinematic talents. He mixes story, emotion and vision seamlessly. The young girl's debuts are not to go without mention. Both startling and mature for such young girls, they bring humanity, but also fear to their roles. It's a dark film that shows love as a kind of sickness. As the girls finally find solace in each other, their worlds soon crumble down. Jackson's imagnation makes way for some beautiful dream sequences. The imaginary world where people are made of clay is always a delight when it shows up. Offering perfect parallels to the story. As one of he girls loses her virginity we see her imaginary world become distorted and twisted. A look at the corruption of innocence and the dangers of adult lives.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2007
Disturbing fantasy sort of movie. Still interesting though, not for everybody.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2007
Not at all what I expected. I thought, "Peter Jackson film, supposed to be different from his normal stuff, supposed to have weird imagination scenes", but it ended up just being a couple creepy 14 year old lesbians (who really couldn't have been old enough to show nipples in the bath) and how they go crazy and kill someone for NO reason. The clay people scenes were by far the most interesting and I wished they had more neat stuff like that. A typical watch or don't watch movie, it won't matter either way.
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