This year we have been bombarded with some amazing Aussie films, and upon hearing that acclaimed writer and director PJ Hogan was directing an another Aussie movie with Toni Collette, I instantly had high expectations for the outcome and I am glad to say that not only was I not disappointed, but the movie surpassed my expectations.
Mental is the Aussie conversation that we need to have. A film showcasing the different states of mental and re-defining just what is normal and what is not.
The films centres around Sharon Thornbender aka Shaz (Toni Collette) who is kind of like Mary Poppins with a bong and a pitbull terrier. Shaz arrives in Dolphin Heads just as the Moochmore family are about to fall apart. Shirley Moochmore (Rebecca Gibney) opens the film with a version of The Hills Are Alive in an overgrown and run down backyard, complete with twirling on a rusty and depleted swing set, the film's opener set's a fantastic tone for the rest of the story as the neighbours stare in horror and her daughters hide with shame.
Shirley takes her daily trip into town to meet her life-size doll collecting sister who is very controlling of Shirley and we see her character completely breakdown. Shirley convinces herself that her husband Barry (Anthony LaPaglia) has won Wheel Of Fortune and she goes on a shopping spree ordering tons of home delivered furniture.
After this she is committed to a mental asylum and Barry picks up Shaz who is hitchhiking to help look after the 5 girls at home. Each of the girls is convinced that they have some sort of mental disability, self-diagnosed schizophrenia, depression and suicide attempts, all explore the darker side of this film.
One of my favourite lines "This wouldn't be happening if I had a house full of boys! Boy's have breakdowns too dad! Not Australian boy's! They are too busy playing football!" Further on in the movie we discover that the reason why Barry cannot relate to his girls, was because of his tainted relationship with his father. It is incredibly touching and shows the shift in attitudes about Australian men and the stero-typical view that our society has on them.
Shaz is a breath of fresh air for the family and goes about turning the neighbourhood upside down, proving to the girls that being mental is a good thing, and does her best to unite the family.
Do not mistake this for a family movie, it is far from it, while family is a big theme the MA rating, adult themes, constant coarse language, C word and sex scenes should be taken into consideration if taking children to see this film. Family is a major theme in this film but it always manages to weave in and out of dark and light tones seamlessly.
Toni Collette as always does an outstanding job as the offensive Shaz, wielding an okke Aussie accent, complete with trashy make up and attitude, this is truly one of her best performances. Rebecca Gibney plays a fantastic role, especially during the breakdown showcasing another side to this outstanding actress. The real credit here goes to Deborah Mailman, who plays a patient in the mental asylum and almost steals the show from Collette. Liev Shrieber has an amazing Aussie accent and shows other actors how it is done without it sounding cheap and tacky.
Overall this movie will either work or not work for you. It is funny, heart-warming, confronting and gut-wretchingly brave film-making. Obvious comparisons to Muriel's Wedding will be in everyone's head as P.J Hogan reunites with Toni Collette, but the two films could not be more different. If you are a fan of Australian quirky films you will love this, personally for me this is one of the best Aussie films out this year, and has also entered my top 5 overall for 2012.