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4 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Heavenly Creatures
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by Isobel Sharp

"This is what friends are for."
5 stars

Ever wish you'd had that one really close friend, growing up? The one who saw the world the way you did, who got all your jokes and understood all your references? The one who you spent all your time with, who you could tell anything to, who would, if necessary, help you beat your mother to death with a brick? No? This movie will almost make you wish you'd had that friend...almost.

Two girls could not have appeared more different than Pauline and Juliet. Pauline (Melanie Lynskey), sullen and terminally rumpled, has a bad attitude towards the world around her, and the kind of creeping disdain of her family that only a teenager can feel. Juliet (Kate Winslet), on the other hand, is bright and outgoing, dramatic in her gestures, if a bit condescending, and seems to have quite a normal relationship with her parents. But when Juliet comes to Pauline's school in Christchurch, New Zealand, the girls become fast friends, and it's quite apparent why. Both of them have powerful, captivating imaginations, the belief that they are smarter by far than the people around them, and an awareness that, for one reason or another, they do not fit into the staid, respectable world that 1950's New Zealand has to offer them.

The girls instead create their own world, a fantasy kingdom that they bring to life through stories, drawings, and molding of Plasticine figures. But this is no child's fairy-tale land; the girls' imaginary world is full of blood and sex and passion: love triangles, evil children, and summary executions drive their stories. Their strong imaginations even lead to a sort of shared vision of 'the Fourth World', a paradise that only people as special as they can access. The film brings these alternate worlds vividly to life, and we can see why the girls find them compelling - they are complex and vibrant alternatives to the boring world the girls have to occupy most of the time.

Pauline and Juliet are people of extremes - if they like something, they love it; anything they dislike is despicable, beyond contemplation. They race through the world at a high speed, ignoring the strange looks people give them, and constantly feeding on each other's imaginations. The two form a tightly bound dyad, excluding everyone else and relying entirely on one another - or so it seems. But the real world drives these girls more than they would probably like to admit. Pauline, feeling out of step with her working-class parents, imagines herself to be Juliet's sister, welcomed into her intellectual and upper-class family, loved by people who might be able to appreciate her. Juliet is terrified of being left alone. As a child, she had been sent to the Bahamas for a respiratory illness, and not seen her parents for many years; this fear is exacerbated when, during the course of the film, she gets tuberculosis and is hospitalized, and her parents promptly leave for England on business.

The girls' vivid imaginations, personal fears and insecurities, draw them closely together. They are inseparable, and passionately in love - though not simply or primarily in a physical way. It's probably more accurate to call them soulmates than anything as simple as 'best friends' or even 'girlfriends'. But their passions are ultimately destructive, as the boundaries between the real world and their fantasy escape are blurred. When Juliet's parents decide that the relationship between the girls is 'unnatural', they declare they will take her away, to South Africa, 'for her health', of course. This sends the girls into a frenzied panic, and they make wild plans for Pauline (like Juliet, only 15 or 16) to go with Juliet - but Pauline isn't old enough to get a passport, and her mother has no intention of letting her teenaged daughter continue in this crazy relationship, let alone leave the country to do it.

Angry and confused about what may or may not be real or possible, Pauline decides that her mother is the major stumbling block to her and Juliet's being together, and comes up with a plan to kill her. Juliet gets brought into the plan, and together, the girls draw Pauline's mother to her doom. The murder is at both the beginning and the end of the film, working as both a setup and a conclusion to the girls' story. Which is, in its way, a true story - the film is based on a shocking murder which took place in 1953 in New Zealand, and much of the story is taken directly out of Pauline's diary entries or reconstructed based on court transcripts.

Both Lynskey and Winslet are handling their first major film roles here, and they do excellent jobs of making these girls sympathetic, horrifying, and comprehensible all at once. A critical part of the story is understanding what was going through these girls' minds, as best as possible, and not seeing them as just 'crazy' or 'bad'. They may have been bits of both, but they were also passionate, imaginative, and very much human - all of which we see due to the skills of these two young actors. In addition, Peter Jackson (known until this time as a director mainly of movies not for the squeamish) handles both the fantasy and the real worlds with equal delicacy. This means that he does not shy away from the brutality of the girls' fantasy lives, or of their ultimate crime - it's not always the easiest film to watch, but for all the right reasons.

Heavenly Creatures is a film about passion and imagination, and how, combined, they make many things possible. The worlds created by these two girls are fascinating; in different circumstances, these girls might have had successful lives as artists (in fact, Juliet is now mystery author Anne Perry). And their friendship is, to a certain point, enviable - not many of us can say we've had friends who truly understood us the way these girls understood one another. But in this case, brutality and murder came from their relationship - and the path that led them there is brilliantly described in this film.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1190&reviewer=291
originally posted: 01/26/02 17:10:55
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User Comments

2/06/13 Langano Just o.k. 3 stars
12/10/11 Bob M Love the soundtrack; incredibly affective filmmaking 5 stars
11/10/09 R.W. Welch Okay as far as it goes, but ends prematurely. C+ 3 stars
4/23/09 Nicole Beautiful, extremely disturbing, took risks and pulled it off excellently. Ten out of ten. 5 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Film. 5 stars
11/19/06 omayra very disturbing 3 stars
9/24/06 David Pollastrini very psychedelic 4 stars
12/21/05 Indrid Cold It's hard to sympathize with the titular creatures, but still interesting. 4 stars
6/16/04 Daveman Contemplative and unsentimental, a bracing film that surprisingly easy to relate to. 4 stars
5/21/04 Gretchen Ross Pretty much a flawless film. See the extended version. 5 stars
1/23/04 Elena This is the only film that I can watch over, and over, and never ever get sick of. 5 stars
1/15/04 John brilliant performances in a manic and kinetic masterpiece 5 stars
6/14/03 Alice Great acting, great story. 5 stars
4/29/03 critter one of my favorite moves...there are no words. WATCH IT! 5 stars
3/31/03 Jack Sommersby A disturbing and bracing nightmare of a domestic drama. Flawlessly acted and directed. 4 stars
2/21/03 Blabity blah Brilliant movie, awesome acting. 5 stars
1/16/03 y2mckay Matricide, humping statues, and teen lesbianism - what's not to like? 4 stars
1/08/03 Christina Disturbing - but brilliant 5 stars
10/29/02 Sheridan Hypnotically brilliant 5 stars
10/16/02 vinod fuckingly beautiful 5 stars
5/22/02 The Bomb69 wildly imaginative and disturbing, hot sex scenes!!! 5 stars
4/03/02 Horace Sippog Diana Kent is FUCKING AWESOME 5 stars
3/31/02 bashir ahmad film 5 stars
3/21/02 Neo-D One of the best movies ever 5 stars
3/14/02 wattdog how about the lord of the rings 4 stars
3/14/02 richard not bad 4 stars
3/05/02 elliot stephens-hibbert good for horny bastards that want a frill 4 stars
2/02/02 Baldy A masterpiece. Simply brilliant. 5 stars
1/03/02 Olive Miller absorbing and haunting film 5 stars
8/15/01 Brian Wow, wow, wow! Peter Jackson now ascends in my book from fun filmmaker to serious director. 5 stars
6/19/01 Bada Bing Crosby Movie is worthy of all the praise/admiration its rec'd 5 stars
5/25/01 Basil One of my favorite movies. 5 stars
4/15/01 Tam Surreal and haunting. I felt so sorry for Lynskey's mother I cried at the end. Kate was gr8 4 stars
3/03/01 Rael Stunning and thought-proviking. One of the best films of the 1990s. 5 stars
12/22/00 The Graduate Beautiful and horrifying. Watch this if you want a glimpse of Jackson's Middle Earth. 5 stars
3/30/00 perverted pixie Brutal, Femme, Arthouse Picture- excellent acting & truely terrifing! 5 stars
11/08/99 Mickey More A masterpiece. Pulls you in, and then smacks you upside the head. Perfect. 5 stars
9/28/99 Tara Munro I Live in NZ, but i'm in brazil for 1 year. It's about the ultimate love, I LOVE IT! 5 stars
9/28/99 Thomas A great film! It was well written and acted fantasticly! A perfect role for Kate's first fi 5 stars
9/28/99 Rebecca Osinowo This was a classic role for Kate, she looked wonderful and most of all acted it out nicely. 4 stars
9/15/99 Greer Amazing, moving, confusing and brilliant. 5 stars
7/03/99 J-Dogg Another odd Jackson miracle. Unlike any of his other films ("Bad Taste" , "Dead-Alive") 4 stars
6/01/99 mammyrammer This film gave me goosebumps. Now,that's a gut level response. It's haunting. 5 stars
3/17/99 Go Swans An extremely disturbing cinematic experience. Not a feel good movie. 4 stars
2/18/99 Piz crafty and artsy, got a bit sleepy at times but it's a critics delight. 4 stars
1/11/99 TNT THIS MOVIE SUX!!!! 1 stars
12/23/98 Lou Pine, Jr. Well-told, disturbing, moving, visually brilliant, and astoundingly excellent. 5 stars
12/20/98 Binky A good movie but not so great as I was led to believe. 4 stars
11/25/98 Mr.Pink Extremely powerful study of adolescent extremity 5 stars
11/18/98 MinxxDaShorty Oh my god!!!! Kate Winslet can act !!! mabey there is hope for us all yet 5 stars
11/02/98 hum excilent. based on a true story from i believe the 1950s or 60s 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1995 (R)


  02-Jul-1995 (M)

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