7.9.2. Alberta Report / Western Report , Aug. 21, 1995
Actually, these creatures are a long way from heavenly
By Colby Cosh
Vol. 22, Alberta Report / Western Report, 08-21-1995, pp 33.
New Zealand is international cinema's flavour of the month lately, and kiwi Jane Campion is considered the world's premier woman film maker. Once Were Warriors, her movie about disaffected urban Maoris, won critical raves this spring, and Heavenly Creatures made some reviewers' Top 10 lists for 1994.
It's based on the true story of two New Zealand teens, Pauline Parker (Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Winslet). These arrogant hero-worshippers from dysfunctional homes meet at school in 1952, and retreat from unpleasant reality into a prolonged folie a deux. Gifted and literary, they create an imaginary universe containing themselves and matinee idols like Orson Welles and Mario Lanza. Eventually their quasi-lesbian friendship attracts the ire of Pauline's parents, and on June 22, 1954, the girls lure Pauline's mother into a park and batter her to death with a stocking-wrapped brick.
If it weren't true, the story would be quite unbelievable, but would likely not be told in such loose and rambling fashion. Heavenly Creatures places heavy demands on the viewer's patience. Although there are startling moments when their creativity, mutual loyalty, and defiance win us over, Pauline and Juliet are only sporadically interesting. Mostly they just seem unrealistic and spoiled, and their story comes off as little more than a pointless and cynical assault on the sensibilities. Kiwi or no, it is overrated.