FILM REVIEW - Beautiful

Picture Blue Velvet by way of American Beauty unfurling on Wisteria Lane and the lurid visions you conjure go some way to expressing the tricky ambitions of Beautiful.
FILM REVIEW - Beautiful
Film Review: Beautiful Picture Blue Velvet by way of American Beauty unfurling on Wisteria Lane and the lurid visions you conjure go some way to expressing the tricky ambitions of Beautiful. Darting from genre to genre and flitting twitchily between subplots, writer/director Dean O’Flaherty sports his myriad influences on his sleeve in this lavishly photographed homage melange that falls short of satisfying as an entity of its own. Teenage girls may or may not be disappearing in the idyllic suburb of Sunshine Hills, and the mysterious residents at number 46 might have something to do with it. Nearby, shy, happy-snapping high school voyeur Daniel (Sebastian Gregory) silently pines after next door neighbour Suzy (Tahyna Tozzi), the 17-year-old bombshell prone to sunbathing on the lawn beneath twinkling sprinklers. Friendless, with a cop father who doesn’t understand him (Aaron Jeffery; who actually instructs his introverted son: “You need to learn to be like everyone else”), and a step-mum (best-in-show Peta Wilson) who can’t fill the void left by his deceased birth mother, it doesn’t take much coaxing from inquisitive honeytrap Suzy before Daniel sets off, camera in hand, to get to the bottom of things by engaging in a little neighbourhood watch. It’s a promising set-up, and for the length of its first act, Beautiful casts an alluring spell. That this Australian genre juggling act is delivered minus ockerisms and with a distinctly worldly sheen only makes matters all the more appealing, but once O’Flaherty’s expansive plot begins to fray, what at first seems intriguing will leave viewers increasingly vexed as it becomes clear that credulity ain’t the currency of this realm. Still, one unwise foray into Grindhouse-esque stock-scratching aside, O’Flaherty’s command as a stylist can’t be denied, and with his obsessive cap-cocking itch here hopefully scratched, where his fine eye shall next fall is a key point of interest. Its conclusion crowds an overabundance of drama into too swift a passage, and the final scene suggests the ever-reliable Deborra-Lee Furness has seen the bulk of her efforts consigned to the cutting room floor, but, if taken as an extravagant calling card for its debuting director, this home grown curio is promising indeed - provided, that is, O’Flaherty the writer accepts that on-screen valentines to cinephilic sweethearts are not the surest of foundations on which to shape a screenplay. DIRECTOR: Dean O’Flaherty SCREENWRITER: Dean O’Flaherty CAST: Sebastian Gregory, Tahyna Tozzi, Peta Wilson, Aaron Jeffery, Deborra-Lee Furness, Erik Thomson, Asher Keddie, Socratis Otto RATING: MA15+ RUN TIME: 97 minutes

Gerard Elson

Tuesday 10 March, 2009

About the author

Gerard Elson is a Melbourne-based writer. He occasionally blogs at http://celluloidtongue.wordpress.com.