Anthony LaPaglia, below) is the lecherous, never-at-home mayor of a small town whose wife (Rebecca Gibney, above) is suffering from psychological problems that take the shape of her desperately wanting her family to be something like the Von Trapps from The Sound of Music. So she sings -- at the most inappropriate times -- and is soon sent away on "vacation" (read "nut-house").
Liev Schreiber, below), who has a shark display at the local aquarium/theme park where the eldest of the family's daughters also works. All this -- plus some nosy, not-very-nice neighbors and Mom's older and also not-very-nice sister -- bring the movie's plot/pot to the brim/boil.
Caroline Goodall as the mean sis, Kerry Fox as an OCD neighbor and Deborah Mailman, below, as an Aborigine pal of Shaz) are all aces.
Lily Sullivan (below) plays, and very well, that eldest daughter, who begins a sweet, somewhat fraught relationship with a boy (a dear doofus brought to charming life by Sam Clark) who also works at the theme park. The plot is mostly Shaz teaching life lessons to the kids, mom and dad, but with these actors in place, along with Hogan's keeping the film energized and well-paced, it's an enjoyable ride, with Shaz/Collette such a consistent cyclone that resistance would be futile. There is also, along the way, an extremely moving scene between Chaz and that eldest daughter as truths are suddenly revealed.
Dada Films and Required Viewing and running 116 minutes -- opened yesterday, March 29, in New York City at the Village East Cinema and Clearview Chelsea and in ten other cities around the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.
What a guy is P.J. Hogan (below): Easy to talk to, funny, serious, smart and totally swept up in film and life and creation. My first question is "What do those initials stand for?"
Crocodile Dundee fellow.... In the short Q&A that follows, TM appears in boldface and P.J. in standard type....
I'm excited to meet you because I've loved your films from way back. My favorite, I think, is that one with Kathy Bates and Jonathan Pryce, Unconditional Love.
Ah, really! I'm so glad to hear that. You know, we had a terrible time with that film. The studio wouldn't release it. So it went straight to Home Video
Yes, I think it was shown on a cable channel here: Maybe Showtime...?
Yes and then straight to DVD. I don't know quite what happened because I went off and did another movie. You have to move on: There are only so many battles you can wage.
That movie seems to me to encapsulate so much that I think you believe in.
It is a special movie to me, and I loved working with Kathy and Rupert (Everett). And Julie Andrews -- as herself!
Music in that one, as in several of your films, seems to mean so much to you. The healing power of it, the joy of it....
Really? I didn't know that.
Yes. Just as with Mental, the events in Muriel's Wedding actually happened. (P.J. notices my surprise). Yes. Our dad was a... well, a bully, and he was not keen on us. We were all a disappointment to him. I remember feeling most comfortable alone in my room, listening to Abba. That was my favorite band, but back then, in the 70s, they were considered very uncool. Now, of course, they are rightly considered great musicians and composers. Back then they had only one hit here in the USA: Dancing Queen. In Australia, they has something like 14!
So Mental is also based on fact?
Yes, Mental is almost entirely based on actual events.
Even the ending? I mean, I thought Shaz was going to stay dead.
My mom, when I was twelve, had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. And my dad, who was the mayor of our town and was running for reelection, he told all of us: "Nobody votes for a guy whose wife is crazy, so the official story is, She's gone on holiday."
So Shaz really was your caretaker?
Yes. Shaz was somebody my dad picked up on the side on the road. She was hitch-hiking. And he was completely at sea when it came to taking care of kids -- he always preferred not to be at home. Of course, he couldn't hire anybody through the official channels, so.... From Dad's point of view, he was doing a good deed for Shaz and for us kids....
And for himself.
Whew. I didn't know all this was true when I watched the movie. This does sort of change things somewhat.
Well, I was considering -- and I talked to my editor a lot about this -- putting at the beginning of the movie that notice that "this film is based on actual events." But we decided not to.
Good. Because almost every other movie you see these days does that.
Yes but even in Argo, the whole last third was concocted!
But when it's a such a personal story like this one, what would the audience care? They either enjoy the story. Or they don't. But because it is so personal and such a part of my life, I am more than willing to discuss it.
Do you live in Australia permanently?
Yes. That's why I am so jet-lagged just now.
Really? You look OK to me. Of course, I've never seen you before.
Yes, yes, so I could just tell you I always look like this: Smokey-eyed!
Do you choose your film projects. Or do they come to you, and then you decide?
OK: My Best Friend's Wedding is one of my favorite romantic comedies, even though it sort of skews to the anti-romantic comedy end.
Yes, but that's what makes people laugh.
Yes, and that's also what distinguishes the film.
It' s what I loved about Ron Bass' screenplay. The first time I read through a screenplay, I just enjoy it. This is as close, I believe, as I will get to the audience's response to the finished film. I remember thinking, about halfway through, I don't want Julia to get the guy. She's being just terrible!
And speaking of blogs, which I know you have and write for, it seems that the real Shaz, who is still out there --
She is still alive?
With a dot.com? Or whatever the Twitter address is.
Exactly. The great thing about it is that her whole philosophy is there, in 140 characters or less, and she says what she thinks. In fact, she does not like the film at all.
No. She dislikes it immensely. She says things like, "It's all lies -- except for that one bit where I pull out the knife and sort out those two bitches. I did do that!"