Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Pierse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison
Director: Peter Jackson
Synopsis: based on true murderous events that shocked New Zealand in the early 50’s
“directed and written with febrile vibrancy” Time Out
“beautifully directed and acted” Blockbuster Video
“stunningly directed” Maltin’s
“mesmerizing” Video Movie Guide
“A brilliant piece of filmmaking, writing, and acting” Creature Features
“disturbing, boldly conceived” Virgin Film Guide
“unique movie….acting is excellent” Psychotronic Video Guide
Heavenly Creatures is Peter Jackson’s third giant leap towards cinematic greatness; the first being the amazing Bad Taste and the second the astounding Dead Alive (AKA Braindead). The subject Jackson picked on this time around was one that horrified the sleepy, tranquil town of Christchurch (New Zealand) way back in the early 50’s – the good old days of Doris Day and Mario Lanza! Two precociously talented yet outcaste students Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, just 16 and 15 respectively, are brought together by fate and grow obsessed with one another, weaving and spinning a fantasy world that consumes them – seemingly just school-girly stuff, but actually far darker instincts are at work which threaten to spill over dangerously into the real world with horrifying results.
Pauline is a dowdy, dark-haired, frumpy and crotchety girl with a constant frown on her face and a burden of thoughts that she shares with nobody until Juliet comes along. Prissy, cocky and pert Juliet arrives from England, all smugness and snooty elegance and proceeds to enchant Pauline with her rude and brash demeanour and her “lustful thoughts”. Pauline’s eyes twinkle lovingly as she gazes on her new object of admiration and indeed adoration and the girls bond like never before “only the best people get bone diseases and heart trouble” says Juliet, building themselves a little elite club of two – A world where the two of them are pitted against the whole moronic world.The unhealthy obsession with each other eventually leads to both sets of parents attempting to separate them which results in a pact by the girls to take matters into their own hands.
Kate Winslet is sensational in her debut role as the insecure and disturbed yet outwardly feisty Juliet harbouring deep feelings of resentment towards her parents outwardly the picture of happiness, but within several skeletons are heard clunking around in their closet. Pauline comes from a working class background and her parents appear to be the paragon of good hardworking, earnest virtue, yet something appears amiss and Pauline carries around a cloud of unexplained anger with her at most times, though the clouds all clear up once Juliet is around. Director Peter Jackson is able to induce a couple of superlative performances from his young actresses, namely Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey who are both nothing less than brilliant in the central roles. Jackson’s treatment of the subject and his unfolding of the story are also the work of brilliance. Never does the viewer’s interest wane for even a moment – swept along as we are by the fabulously assured acting, the stunning visuals and perhaps the strongest aspect of the film, its excellent screenplay, also written by Jackson with Frances Walsh lending a hand.
This film is a near-masterwork, supremely acted and superbly constructed and clearly illustrates that Peter Jackson’s is a huge talent that is just waiting to burst onto the scene and finally, along with Sam Raimi who similarly had his roots in some outrageous slapstick horror, Hollywood has discovered (or is it re-discovered) two directors who have a visual flair and energy that is not to be found in most of their contemporaries. Jackson has finally arrived with the sensational Lord of the Rings films while Raimi, almost marginalized after his dreadful dalliance with Kevin Costner has bounced back with Spiderman which has made him one of tinsel town’s hottest properties of the day.
There will certainly be those who find the sometimes almost frenetic camerawork of both Raimi and Jackson a little too busy for their taste, but at least their work doesn’t reek of the stylized flash that has become the hallmark of modern directors of the MTV school of filmmaking such as Michael Bay, William Malone, Steve Beck and countless others who have fine tuned their “art” in the world of commercials and Music Videos. Perhaps with Peter Jackson finding fame with the LOTR films, people might give Heavenly Creatures a dip – and be shocked to find the little classic contained within. Few can boast as auspicious a start to a career such as Peter Jackson for that matter, the “absolutely hideous” Orson Welles included.
Incidentally, in case you wondered whatever became of the two murdering girls? Both changed their names – One became a successful crime novelist while another became the head of a school for disabled children!
Search the net for Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme to discover more.