Review of Peter Jackson’s ‘Heavenly Creatures’ Starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lyndskey

Cover of "Heavenly Creatures"

Cover of Heavenly Creatures

Summary: Peter Jackson Presents in Cinematic Form A ‘Mental Music’ of The Minds of The Two Murderesses Which Allows Us to Experience The Killers’ Psyche First-Hand

Pauline Parker is a misguided adolescent. She is blinded by the belief that her best buddy Juliet Hulme‘s family is the ideal one where she belongs. Her foolish ignorance of the love, care and affection given by her own middle-class parents can be especially found when she does not consider the fact that it is her mother who always takes notice of her feeling and tries talking to her, like when Pauline is sad about Juliet contacting tuberculosis or when she is sitting in one corner away from the rest of her family. Pauline’s vivid imagination also innocently made Dr. Henry Hulme (Juliet’s dad) a hero, when in reality he was a major cause for the separation of the two girls. She may have a wider knowledge and a greater imagination than her mother, but she also was bafflingly stupid and ungrateful for believing her mother was the main enemy in the film.

The unfortunate incident of the mother’s murder would not have happened at all had Juliet not entered Pauline’s life and poisoned it with deluded thoughts about the Fourth World. If Pauline is misguided, Juliet is the main cause for leading her buddy astray. I really don’t know how to take the fact that this same Juliet is a best-selling author now, because the movie unflatteringly portrays her as a cankerous albeit intelligent mind who thinks ‘scars are romantic’. Pauline meanwhile leads a reclusive life at a school, ashamed of her dark and twisted past and seeking redemption possibly by nurturing school children to be unlike what she had been.

The sensational murder case of Honora Parker by her own daughter Pauline and her best friend (and lover probably) Juliet Hulme is brought to screen in a fascinating and unorthodox fashion by auteur director- scriptwriter Peter Jackson. Though not as talked about as cases like Black Dahlia or the Moors Murders, the 1954 murder case is still a very intriguing one for the plain reason that it was hard to fathom that two very intelligent girls could turn into cold-blooded murderers of one’s own mother. Also to be considered is the relationship between the two girls who are seemingly lesbians yet it cannot be entirely confirmed as they do not show much attraction towards other girls. The diaries written by Pauline refer to the girls’ communion with ‘saints’ in the Fourth world who are mostly made of actors like Orson Welles, and thus act as a major source material for the film and another reason for raising curiosity about the case.

Peter Jackson is not one to keep it straight; much like David Lynch he has his directorial mark etched all over the film. Heavenly Angels does not start with court proceedings, and neither does it show the arrest of the two girls. It lets us enter and experience the ‘mental music’ of the girls themselves rather than presenting its events informally through banal court sessions. Jackson’s transition from Braindead to Heavenly Children and following transition to Lord of the Rings is clearly visible in Heavenly Children, which seems to possess both the stylistic characteristics of the preceding and succeeding films. Not only do the characters give slightly mannered performances that recalls the over- the-top acting in Braindead (such as a scene in the first quarter where Pauline’s father holds a fish in his hands and pretends to sing while the record of Mario Lanza plays on), but certain characters also give us impressions of characters from Braindead (especially the timid boarders at Pauline’s home who are quite similar to Braindead’s male protagonist). On the other hand, Juliet dressed as a princess chasing Pauline, with white horses in the background may recall magical sequences from LOTR series; I may be wrong in saying this since I have not seen the Lord of the Ring series.

There are a number of brilliantly choreographed sequences, especially the montage showing Pauline’s and Juliet’s happy days together, lightened with Mario Lanza’s arresting music. Some involve lighthearted humor that nevertheless act as a presage for the girls’ worsening behavior, such as the hilarious scene at the hospital where Juliet is approached by a middle-aged man who rambles about Christ and placing faith in Christianity and is ultimately beheaded albeit in Juliet’s mind by one of the saints. The most unnerving part is reserved for the end where the characters the camera movements slow down and silence becomes more pronounced, with only a background score playing solemnly as we brace ourselves to watch that dreadful part.

Kate Winslet is consistently brilliant in each and every scene; apart from one scene involving the girls discussing about each others’ scars where she sounds too crazy, she successfully makes Juliet a highly mentally fragile female whose attachment to her fantasy life and Fourth World acts as a catalyst for the disruption of the lives of the two families. She also excellently plays the brutal murder scene, rightly giving the ‘should-we-really-do-this’ look to Juliet. But Melanie is the true star here, doing a great job performing the difficult role of Pauline. Not only do her expressions, her lack of eye contact and her defensive sitting posture accurately portray the role she is playing of a socially awkward teenager, but Lyndskey also gives her character Pauline a unique manner of smiling where her nose crinkles up as she smiles. And both actresses play their characters with damn seriousness even during the hallucination sequences, which is a tough job for such a young pair of ladies. Also, Sarah Peirse is terrific in her slightly straightforward role as the mother who is the only one taking an effort to understand what’s wrong with her daughter.

I unfortunately do not have the unrated version of the movie which is slightly longer but would have nevertheless remained useful because I’ve read it contains scenes involving Juliet’s mother’s affair with one of the patients. ‘Heavenly’ Recommended.

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