To appreciate the complexity and uniqueness of SWEETIE, Jane Campion's remarkably assured first feature, try to imagine Roman Polanski's REPULSION reworked as a romantic comedy or Brian De Palma's SISTERS refashioned as a farce.
Kay (Karen Colston) is a gaunt, withdrawn young woman whose life is ruled by superstition. A control freak, she fervidly accepts a fortune teller's prediction that she'll meet a man with a question mark on his forehead and promptly steals a coworker's fiance (Tom Lycos) who fits the bill: he
sports a wayward curl of hair over a beauty mark. For a while, the uptight woman relaxes, but her phobic behavior is never completely overcome. When her obese sister Dawn (Genevieve Lemon) appears on the scene, unannounced and uninvited, we begin to understand just why Kay's a paranoid bundle of
repression. Manipulative and alternately petulant or hysterical, the eponymous "Sweetie" gobbles life voraciously, sampling food and men with the same relish; she's a female Peter Pan straitjacketed in a little girl's frilly party dress. Not surprisingly, her wildly inappropriate behavior has
brought her family to the end of its rope.
In this darkly stylish debut, New Zealander Campion has fashioned a slapstick domestic tragedy. In addition to being a remarkable visual stylist (brilliantly aided by cinematographer and former classmate Sally Bongers), Campion elicits miracles of acting from her cast. In this comically heightened
version of reality, the actors might all too easily have overplayed the laughs and forced the tears; instead they are effectively disquieting and colorful. Cruelly honest and pitilessly funny, SWEETIE is one of the nakedest explorations of familial love and desperation ever filmed.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: To appreciate the complexity and uniqueness of SWEETIE, Jane Campion's remarkably assured first feature, try to imagine Roman Polanski's REPULSION reworked as a romantic comedy or Brian De Palma's SISTERS refashioned as a farce. Kay (Karen Colston) is a g… (more)