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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 37.08%
Average: 11.24%
Pretty Bad: 4.49%
Total Crap: 4.49%

6 reviews, 53 user ratings

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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Intricacy and intimacy"
5 stars

Lantana is the name of director Ray Lawrence’s second feature film, and it comes 16 years after his first, the award-winning Bliss. It is also the common name of a flowering shrub that originated in South America but has spread throughout Australia and the Pacific. Covered in attractive flowers, lantana is often mistaken for an ornamental - but it’s a noxious weed that stifles the growth of surrounding vegetation. Concealed beneath the flowery surface is a dense thicket of thorns.

The film opens with a glimpse of a body, suspended in the thorny branches of a lantana bush. Before we return to the mystery of that body, Lawrence and screenwriter Andrew Lovell (adapting his play, Speaking in Tongues) introduce four couples and several important subsidiary characters. Lantana is about love, intimacy and trust and - like the shrub - the characters’ relationships are deceptively complex, heavily interconnected and frequently thorny.

Police detective Leon (Anthony LaPaglia) has a one-night stand with Jane (Rachael Blake), who’s recently separated from her husband Pete (Glenn Robbins). Leon’s wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong), worried about Leon’s waning interest in her, is seeing a therapist - Dr Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey). Valerie’s marriage to John (Geoffrey Rush) is floundering because they no longer relate to each other after the shocking murder of their young daughter. Valerie also feels threatened by a gay client, Patrick (Peter Phelps), who’s having an affair with a married man and is callous about the plight of his lover’s wife. Nik (Vince Colosimo) and Paula (Daniella Farinacci) live next door to Jane and Pete. Their relationship appears to be rock solid, until Nik suspects that Jane is interested in him. Finally, Leon’s police colleague Claudia (Leah Purcell) has her eye on a man who dines at a local restaurant.

Lantana moves steadily, but unhurriedly, thanks to Lawrence’s assured direction and Karl Sodersten’s smooth editing. But when the plot complications multiply, and we return to the body from the opening (it’s initially not obvious that it’s one of the principals), Lantana grips as tightly as any thriller. The plotting is intricate and satisfying in its unexpected connections - this is the best ensemble drama of its type since Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. Bovell and Lawrence aren’t juggling as many characters, but each is complex, rich and fully developed.

Phelps and Blake excel in less sympathetic roles. Rush’s low-key work is unlike anything I’ve seen him do before. Hershey’s frailty is moving; Armstrong is heartbreaking in her yearning. Purcell is refreshingly down-to-earth and charming as Leon’s partner. LaPaglia’s character - and his performance - binds the film; he encounters all the other characters during his journey and supplies the moving finale. Not afraid to reveal Leon’s unpleasantness, LaPaglia makes everything Leon does utterly real and, ultimately, forgivable.

The subtle work of costume designer Margot Wilson and production designer Kim Buddee helps the actors establish their characters. Mandy Walker’s cool, subdued cinematography gives the film a muted look, but Lantana is never depressing because you care so much about the characters and their plights.

I was a little confused about the film’s continuity at one point, but this would probably be clarified by a second viewing. At another moment, I felt like screaming at one of the characters to telephone a lawyer. But without any hype, Lantana has taken root in Australian cinemas, and it’s gratifying to see such an accomplished, adult film find an appreciative audience.

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originally posted: 11/01/01 13:45:18
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User Comments

7/29/08 john boring, uninteresting,, predictable, thinks its more intelligent than it is. 1 stars
2/13/07 MP Bartley Excellently acted...but is there enough here to warrant a second viewing? 4 stars
11/23/05 JBH If we hadn't been confronted by Kerry Armstrong's ugly face it would have been excellent. 4 stars
5/24/05 Jim You think you know what's going on, but you don't. 5 stars
5/10/05 Hack-SAW One of the BEST Aussie' movies ever... 5 stars
1/06/05 peter More of barbara hershey in the tight sweater plzzzz! was average 3 stars
7/30/04 Daveman Barbara Hershey is awful and the film is predictably melodramatic. 2 stars
7/25/04 john bale Top acting, script, explores dark relationships in suburbia. Best Aussie film in years. 5 stars
5/25/04 Greyhound Thought provoking 4 stars
4/23/04 Dianne Caruso Lantana made me sit and think for hours afterwards.It presented relevant Aus social issues 5 stars
3/09/04 Mr_Blue 2 words: Super Deluxe! And Normally I don't like that sentimental stuff, but this: SUPER 4 stars
3/09/04 alice great movie, good acting 4 stars
10/02/03 Fluffy Ears Henkelschmidt IV Colin Friels hopelessly miscast 2 stars
10/02/03 Mopsa Very difficult and painful, but good cinema 4 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones Geoff Rush would be better placed in Pantomime - CRAP! 1 stars
12/28/02 Herb Crowell A total piece of drivel. A worthless pile of shit. 2 stars
12/02/02 Gruther Unninteresting 2 stars
10/23/02 shell lyons lantana is a film that demands multiple viewings in order to grasp its nuances 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Very very good. An Oz classic. Authentic 5 stars
8/06/02 Monday Morning Way slow and filled with impossible coincidences. 3 stars
7/15/02 Phil M. Aficionado Well done in every respect. Startling for its insights into character and life circumstance 5 stars
6/08/02 ownerofdajoint a real headknocker......... 4 stars
6/06/02 The Bomb 69 interesting character study, solid performances, a little too coincidental though 4 stars
5/19/02 natasha very honest, very human 5 stars
5/11/02 Diamantopoulou Chrys Excellent casting and direction! 5 stars
3/23/02 naturalhealer7 Very strong performances and realistic examining of relationships. 4 stars
3/17/02 Teresa A mystery entangled in the lives of four couples. Interesting ending. 4 stars
3/04/02 bevan r clark a fucking masterpiece 5 stars
3/04/02 D. Jah-Voo Well done, but...boring! 3 stars
2/27/02 KCobain Tense, Engrossing, and powerful 5 stars
2/24/02 Pippa Funny and sobering with a twist of lust thrown in 4 stars
2/16/02 JB Not horribly entertaining, yet a true revelation of masculinity. 4 stars
2/09/02 Alex Ezander You love it 5 stars
2/08/02 Bonne I thought this movie really sucked. Sorry I wasted a good Sunday morning on it. 1 stars
2/06/02 Moe Snodgrass This film would have been okay if not for the inane music. I wanted to walk out but didn't. 3 stars
1/29/02 ona mccarthy the best film i've seen in a long time 5 stars
1/26/02 pipeman28 Excellent. Fucking Brilliant. 5 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Willams Simply brilliant ! 5 stars
1/05/02 Elizabeth Great acting, great script and (except for one) sympathetic and believable characters. 5 stars
12/22/01 Bruce Very intense and very real, one of the best movies of the year 5 stars
12/18/01 Jimbo One of the best this year 4 stars
12/17/01 Isla Like a delicious feast; YUM 5 stars
12/16/01 Janet Taylor Gripping! 4 stars
12/15/01 laaami best australian film of 2001 - perfect 5 stars
12/02/01 Glenn A masterpiece... excellent cinema here! 5 stars
11/21/01 Danny Moss engrossing, must pay attention to all of the subtle twists 5 stars
11/05/01 ^Elendil^ I'm probably too young to fully appreciate the territory it covered, but still brilliant 5 stars
11/04/01 tim meh 1 stars
10/22/01 Roxsy beautifully acted 4 stars
10/22/01 Jeremy Great acting and totally engrossing drama 5 stars
10/16/01 viking The most satisfying Australian drama since "Shine" 5 stars
10/10/01 Pierce Lanson Everyone will recognise friends and acquaintances in this best Aust. movie of the year. 5 stars
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  25-Jan-2002 (R)



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