The Eye of the Storm Reviews
I've often sung the praises of Australian cinema but along comes Fred Schepisi's adaptation of a popular Aussie novel to leave me with platypus egg on my face. Schepisi was part of the Australian New Wave, a collective of film-makers from the country (and New Zealand) who emerged in the seventies with a series of landmark films like Peter Weir's 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', Ted Kotcheff's 'Wake in Fright', and Schepisi's own 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith'. Like the Australian outback, they were beautiful and challenging, often thinly hiding a deep-rooted colonial guilt. In the eighties, the various members of this movement left for the U.S, with mixed results. Schepisi, 'A Cry in the Dark' excluded, found himself lost in the fog of Hollywood mediocrity, helming comedies like 'Mr Baseball' and 'Roxanne'. Now he's returned to his homeland but, sadly, it's a return as bland as any of his American paycheck films.
Schepisi's direction is impressive, clearly influenced by Robert Altman, and the trio of lead performances are terrific, as you'd expect from such actors. The problem lies with the script, as bland and uninvolving a piece of drivel as you could hope to find. Australian readers won't like me saying this but 'TEOTS' feels very much like a British film, the sort that features lots of characters sipping tea and saying "bugger" for comic effect. Come on Oz, I know you can do better. Last year you thrilled us with 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'The Hunter'. This year you've started by putting us to sleep with tea and mediocrity.
Fine actors (Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis) cannot salvage this story of a dying, wealthy, Australian matriarch, luring her hapless children back into the poisonous luxury of their ancestral adobe; the year is 1972, and the bitter taste of the Holocaust is still palatable in the role of a German housekeeper.
At first the viewer empathizes with "Elizabeth Hunter" (Rampling) beloved by her "help", shunned by her children, "Basil" (Rush), "Dorothy" (Davis); gathered around her deathbed to suck the spoils of her imminent demise. But as the film progresses, through a series of flashbacks, we recognize why her children strayed so far from the hearth; "mommy dearest" on steroids; she steals her daughter's lovers, refuses to attend her son's stage performances; beds whomever she fancies; she is amoral, unaccountable, vainglorious, self-centered; her erasure should have come at a precipitated rate.
Novels by James Michener and James Clavell address the calm, aka "eye" before the apocalyptic conclusion. "The Eye of the Storm" offers a behemoth's tiresome struggle against the inevitable; there is nothing calming about the process.