One part THE DRESSER (1983) and one part A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) with a splash of CARRIE (1976), this oddly pleasing film follows the life of Lilian (Ruth Cracknell and Toni Collette), a woman just released from a 40-year stay at a secluded psychiatric residence. Based on the novel by Kate Grenville (which is a fictional account of Bea Miles life), young, awkward Lilian (Toni Collette) grows haphazardly into womanhood while terrorized by her sadomasochistic father John (Barry Otto). Lilian's dysfunctional family is unable to guide or protect her and she’s routinely corralled into the psychiatric residence, jail and eventually, onto the streets of Sydney with the rest of society’s "bad girls." Rehabilitated Lilian, whose sanity and danger to society are questionable at best, uses her dramatic gift for recitation as autobiography and street theater. What’s somewhat amazing is that Lilian performs only Shakespeare, which everyone - including the cabbies and affable prostitutes that work her corner - effortlessly recognizes. While wrestling with her past she abandons her natural family and creates a new one comprised of her alcoholic ex-beau Frank (John Flaus) and a pregnant, palm reading Virgin Mary named Ruby (Fiona Press). With such an interesting story line, it’s unfortunate the filmmakers don’t deliver much more, especially with Cracknell’s brilliant and sometimes necessarily over-the-top performance. The interesting question posed by Lilian’s survival what becomes of damaged and discarded is muted by Jerzy Domaradzki’s mannered direction. The origin of Lilian’s genuine compassion for the damaged world she now inhabits is never explored. Instead, the film is bogged down with monologues and sepia-drenched flashbacks (gorgeously shot by Slavomir Izdiak) that never deliver more than doe-eyed looks from Collette and don’t show how Lilian ultimately claims her own place in life.
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: One part THE DRESSER (1983) and one part A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) with a splash of CARRIE (1976), this oddly pleasing film follows the life of Lilian (Ruth Cracknell and Toni Collette), a woman just released from a 40-year stay at a secluded psyc… (more)