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4 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Heavenly Creatures
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Peter Jackson's masterpiece."
5 stars

After a few gory items well-loved by the relative few who saw them, Peter Jackson decided to tackle more mature material. Except he didn't. 'Heavenly Creatures' is a quantum leap in substance from gleefully sick flicks like 'Meet the Feebles' and 'Dead Alive,' but it retains Jackson's restless devotion to the delirium of fantasy.

After a diabolically goofy prologue a heartily square travelogue of 1950s Christchurch, New Zealand we're thrown rudely into bloody chaos: Two girls, Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet), running and shrieking, smeared and spattered with gore. We don't know them yet, and we don't know where the blood came from (though Pauline says "Mummy's terribly hurt"), but we sure are intrigued. The rest of Heavenly Creatures explains how the girls got to that state.

Pauline, a defiantly frumpy girl (played by Lynskey with uncompromising unpleasantness that still manages to be likable), lives with her parents in a clean but cramped house, where boarders sometimes rent a room. The glamorous Juliet arrives from England, instantly antagonizing her new French teacher by correcting the old lady's grammar. Pauline, who's in the same class, is impressed. Soon the girls, sitting out gym class, bond over their illnesses "All the best people have bad chests and bone diseases. It's all frightfully romantic," gushes Juliet with the sort of passion only Kate Winslet seems able to access. These two were goth and emo before there were goth and emo, and in due time they construct an elaborate fantasy world drawing on standard mythic templates as well as pop culture of the day (Mario Lanza, Orson Welles, etc.). They're escaping their families Pauline's forbidding drudge of a mother, Juliet's intellectual but cold mother and father and hurtling toward a place that gives them the status and sense of belonging they crave.

Jackson is always chasing after the girls with his camera as they sprint along the landscape of New Zealand, morphing in and out of the land they call Borovnia. Heavenly Creatures has been called a lesbian film, but even though the girls do kiss and snuggle while acting out the fantasy narrative, they go way beyond sexuality into pathology. Of course, back in the '50s, homosexuality was pathology (the massive close-up of a doctor sibilantly enunciating the word homo-ssseck-shuality is good for a laugh), and the girls' parents Pauline's working-class family and Juliet's far more cosmopolitan parents decide the girls have been spending far too much time together. Which, undeniably, they have. Jackson acknowledges that the girls' feverish fantasy life, while rich and satisfying to them, is also leading them down a path from which there is no sane return.

Heavenly Creatures acquires emotional heft partly because of Sarah Peirse's honest performance as Pauline's unsophisticated but hardworking mother. Pauline despises her and is mortified by her very existence, but Jackson paints the mother as a frightened woman who made a lot of mistakes as a girl and possibly sees Pauline unconsciously following in her footsteps. The final reel, in which Pauline encourages her mom to have another piece of cake before their fateful walk in the woods, is exquisitely sad. The girls have been driven to the point where their actions, meant to unite them forever, will do quite the opposite. As the moment of truth approaches, Lynskey and Winslet perform a duet of regret the awful weight of what the girls are about to do settles rock-like in their stomachs.

On one level, Heavenly Creatures is a stellar true-crime story, which Jackson probably grew up hearing about. The movie also outed Juliet, who'd changed her name to Anne Perry and written a series of popular mystery novels; Pauline now goes by Hilary Nathan. As per court order, they haven't seen each other since 1954. The movie, upon repeat viewings, only becomes more poignant with that knowledge.

I truly don't think Jackson's filmmaking has gotten better since 'Heavenly Creatures' just bigger. Here, at age 32, he nailed a difficult tonal mix of exultation and anguish he hasn't approached since, though his forthcoming adaptation of 'The Lovely Bones' may restore the old magic. The inner tension of the film emerges from Jackson's enjoyment of the girls' bustling insanity and then his gradual withdrawal from it turning out the lights, one by one, in the kingdom of delusion.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1190&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/29/07 22:42:01
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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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