The Monkey's Mask

A lesbian Philip Marlowe prowls the mean streets of the Australian poetry scene in search of a young girl's killer in Samantha Lang's sultry neo-noir pastiche. Private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) needs a new job: A former policewoman, Jill's been trying to make it as a detective-for-hire but has little to show for it, other than some hard-won...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A lesbian Philip Marlowe prowls the mean streets of the Australian poetry scene in search of a young girl's killer in Samantha Lang's sultry neo-noir pastiche. Private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) needs a new job: A former policewoman, Jill's been trying to make it as a detective-for-hire but has little to show for it, other than some hard-won wisdom (complete with scars) about homophobic cops. So when she gets a call from the distraught mother of an honest-to-God missing person, Jill pounces. Mrs. Norris (Linden Wilkinson) wants Jill to help the police search for her daughter, Mickey (Abbie Cornish), a university student and aspiring poetess who was last seen at a poetry reading before vanishing into the night. Jill's initial investigation leads her directly to Dr. Diana Maitland (Kelly McGillis), a leggy professor of literature with a wedding ring and an open mind. Routine questioning quickly turns to outright flirtation, and Jill's search for Mickey takes a back seat to a torrid affair with her prof. During a rare breather, Mrs. Norris calls with some bad news: Mickey's strangled body has been found in a nearby shallow grave. As Jill delves deeper into the insular world of Sydney's literati, her list of suspects — many of them much older men all too willing to "help" a novice writer like Mickey — grows longer. When she starts receiving threatening calls in verse on her answering machine, Jill begins to fear her own life may be in danger. What made Dorothy Porter's novel, on which this film is based, unique is that the entire story is told in verse; each chapter is a short poem that manages to simultaneously set a sexy, hard-boiled mood while telling a fairly interesting story. But while Lang and screenwriter Annie Kennedy tried to preserve this conceit by incorporating some of Porter's poetry into Jill's husky voice-over narration, the plot itself isn't really strong enough to stand alone. And that leaves the film an essentially conventional whodunit, if one with a rather unconventional sleuth at its center.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A lesbian Philip Marlowe prowls the mean streets of the Australian poetry scene in search of a young girl's killer in Samantha Lang's sultry neo-noir pastiche. Private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) needs a new job: A former policewoman, Jill… (more)

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