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.
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.