Heavenly Creatures Reviews
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.
All that and still very relatable, bc two outsiders become kindred spirits and create a fantasy world that overtakes them, to a deadly end.
Staggering that it's a true story.
You will be So glad u went along for this ride.
5 out of 5
The story follows two teenage girls in 1950s New Zealand, whose friendship becomes so overwhelmingly intense as to threaten their connection to their families and, indeed, to reality itself. I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that things get darker and darker as their relationship progresses.
It might seem surprising at first that a filmmaker now known primarily for enormous-scale fantasy epics would be interested in a story about adolescent friendship and madness, but when you watch it, you can see some resemblances to his later work. For one thing, this movie has an extremely intense visual style - Jackson is almost constantly swooping the camera in and out, left and right, and generally engineering shots for maximum visceral impact. Compared to this film, the camerawork in Lord of the Rings is actually often tame by comparison. Some of the fantasy sequences, which take place entirely in the girls' imaginations, resemble scenes from Lord of the Rings. There are even a few shots of Lynskey glaring at her mother that make her look uncannily like Gollum. Above all, the film shows that Jackson was always a filmmaker with a world-building bent, whether the world is Middle-Earth or two girls' imagined refuge from reality.
The performances by both Winslet and Lynskey are great, especially considering how young they both were when they made the film. Lynskey progresses so gradually from awkward and sympathetic to hostile and creepy that it's hard to say just where the transition lies. Winslet nicely conveys both charm and a disturbing degree of insularity and self-regard. Overall, this is a very fine film, marred only slightly perhaps by its rather abrupt ending.
Heavenly Creatures is actually the first film I've seen which is a fully New Zealand production, and it is an interesting look at the world as well as the early 1950's time frame. The scenery of the New Zealand landscape is beautiful and full of wonderful lighting which is also captured with strong cinematography which gives the film a good visual basis.
Heavenly Creatures was an interesting film. It wasn't perfect, but there was certainly a lot of ambition and strength behind it. There are certain storytelling tropes which Peter Jackson is not able to transcend in Heavenly Creatures, but there is no denying precisely what extent he is able to reach success with. There is only a certain distance that the story in Heavenly Creatures can actually go which means that sometimes it gets distracted while trying to look into the subtext of some of the characters and building some of the subplot elements due to the scale of its ambition against the actually possibilities of the narrative, but it is still a great film as a whole.
Heavenly Creatures has a very powerful story to it. Based on the famous 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case, Heavenly Creatures chronicles a lot about precisely what contributed to the motivations of the killers as well as precisely how they developed as people in the extensive period of time leading up to the event. The film gets into the minds of the perpetrators of the murder by examining their existence in early 1950's Cristchurch, the kind of society that they were forced to live in and the relationship between the two of them. It covers a lot of ground, even though it isn't always the most interesting film and has many moments of repetition as the story progresses. The thing which really gives Heavenly Creatures a strong basis is the screenplay of the film. The screenplay in Heavenly Creatures is just brilliant. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh made the excellent decision to use actual excerpts from Pauline Harker's diary as the basis for the narration in the film which ensures that the narrative ties into the real world very well. From there on, the dialogue that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh give to the tale is just brilliant. It captures natural New Zealand dialect in terms of a lot of natural slang used by its inhabitants, particularly from its time period of the early 1950's. From there, Peter Jackson harnesses the material and transfers it to the screen very well with stylish direction which is tensely atmospheric in the best sense.
Heavenly Creatures has a lot of interesting imagery to it. As the story drifts off into the imaginary "Fourth World", things in Heavenly Creatures become more and more surreal which drives the drama of the film in an all new direction. There are zany creations made out of clay that come to life as a simulation of the world within the mind of Juliet Hulme and progressively with Pauline Parker. The images of these scenes give the film a twisted fantasy edge which is both fascinating and important as a perspective of the troubling lives that both lived as they had to constantly escape to such a world as a way of running from the fears of reality. The fact that the film detracts from its plot to emphasize these points may sometimes get in the way of the general story progression, but that is largely the entire point due to how it did the same to the actual creators of the Fourth World. The surreal moments of the film are visually excellent and make for easily memorable scenes, and it just adds to the tension of the atmosphere which is already rich with drama. The entire experience is a very tense one, and the visual style of Heavenly Creatures just adds to it, and he takes the low budget of the feature extremely far.
The performances of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are just amazing. It is so difficult to get performances of such dedication out of actors so young and unknown, but Peter Jackson is able to bring out the best in both of them.
In her debut feature, Kate Winslet is just incredible. The Academy Award winning actress who has since been praised as one of the finest actresses of her generation starts off her lengthy and critically acclaimed career in Heavenly Creatures, and it is easy to see a lot of her talents come into play. Her performance is a fearless and ultimately very ambitious one. Her voice articulation gives the part perfect line delivery with all the emotional tension of the character being easily brought to the surface, and her physical involvement in the part is great because she stands strong during all the emotional scenes and acts with such rich dramatic involvement. At the young age of 17, Kate Winslet is able to astound viewers with her amazing debut performance in Heavenly Creatures as the twisted and troubled Juliet Hulme which would pave the way for her extensive career in the future, proving that even in her youth she always had the charisma to dominate a film in a leading performance. Kate Winslet is just spectacular.
Melanie Lynskey is also excellent. In her own debut performance, she captures the raw emotional turmoil of a lonely young girl troubled by her own emotional issues, a family who fails to understand her and so much in her life standing in the way of her friendship wih Juliet Hulme. She makes the role a sympathetic one and as the story develops, so does she. Melanie Lynskey progresses very well through the narrative in Heavenly Creatures because her line delivery is organic and consistently tense while her physicality constantly projects a sense of emotional isolation which is pivotal to the role. She makes a fine debut perforance and shares an incredible chemistry with Kate Winslet.
So despite not being the ost engaging film and feeling somewhat distracted at times, Heavenly Creatures is a dark, gripping and intense look into one of New Zealand's most controversial murder cases anchored by Peter Jackson's lean direction and excellent script as well as incredible performances from Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.