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Bams' review of
Lantana
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Lantana

Lantana (2001)
Rated R; running time 120 minutes
Studios: Lions Gate Films
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Official site: http://www.lantanathemovie.com/
IMDB site: http://us.imdb.com/Details?0259393
Written by: Andrew Bovell (based on his play)
Directed by: Ray Lawrence
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Daniela Farinacci, Vince Colosimo, Peter Phelps, Leah Purcell

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002


(click here to skip to this movie's rating)


Just when you think you have Lantana figured out - "Ok, it's a whodunit...wait, it's a who done it to whom...wait..." - it twists itself up and rearranges itself again.

I like that in a movie.


THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
The folks at Lions Gate Films provide the following definition for lantana: "a genus of tropical shrub with small, colorful blooms that hides a dense, thorny undergrowth". And they don't just mean the plant.

Lantana is the thorny, interrelated tale of four couples: policeman Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong), a couple falling quickly out of love as Leon embarks on a passion-less affair with Jane O'May (Rachael Blake). Sonja suspects Leon of infidelity, a fear which she shares with Dr. Valerie Sommers (Barbara Hershey), a therapist in grief over the murder of her young daughter two years prior. Valerie says that her husband John (Geoffrey Rush) "taught her to trust again", but by all appearances, they are as distant as Leon and Sonja. Meanwhile, nosy neighbor Jane gets all in her friend Paula's kool-aid, but doesn't know the flavor...hmmm, sorry; Jane becomes increasingly interested in the goings-on with nurse Paula (Daniela Farinacci) and her laid-off husband Nik (Vince Colosimo).

When one of the group goes missing, the circle is completed when Leon and his partner Claudia (Leah Purcell) are called to investigate Jane's suspicion of another of the group, though Leon himself is surprised to find a certain someone waiting with Jane...


THE UPSHOT
I'm very glad Lantana was an Australian, not American, film. Given the same set of circumstances, the titillation factor would've been turned way up here in the States. Instead, this cast treated its audience to a much more subtle, mature form of storytelling that I enjoyed muchly.

I have to say, though, that it wasn't an easy watch. Viewing Lantana at home was challenging, in that it had few Big! Flashy! Scenes!, major stars, or high action, to divert my attention away from the distractions of home life in watching this screener tape (of necessity: it's still not showing in Podunkville). Even its studio mate, Monster's Ball, had more immediacy of motion than did Lantana. But what this film lacked in action, it more than made up for in substance.

That bit above, about "no major stars"? Don't let that throw you. Lantana didn't really need any: it had good actors. The leading foursome of Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Armstrong, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey were outstanding, with Hershey in particular surprising me with her performance. She hasn't exactly been tearing down the house in movies lately, but as a griever-in-denial, she adds a deft layer to this multilayered, intertwined story. Peter Phelps (Patrick), Daniela Farinacci, Vince Colosimo and Leah Purcell provide solid support with characters that are not just afterthoughts to the main story. And interesting in all the ways that Glenn Close's Alex was not in Fatal Attraction, was Rachael Blake as Jane, The Other Woman. What I liked most about her character was the fact that her relationship with Leon wasn't the end-all issue of her role in the movie...and I can't say much more than that without spoiling the story.

Director Ray Lawrence and writer Andrew Bovell deserves kudos for their non-linear storytelling ability, keeping the viewer's interest throughout with misdirection, happenstance, and false assumptions. I found myself jumping to the wrong conclusions time and time again, and was pleasantly surprised when I was proved wrong. I reckon it's a pavlovian reaction to standard Hollywood fare; you get so used to straight-ahead, unimaginative movies, that when Something Different like Lantana comes along, it throws you for a loop. This, my friends, is A Good Thing.


BAMMER'S BOTTOM LINE
If you're looking for a "turn your mind off and just watch" kind of film, look elsewhere; Lantana is a film that demands the viewer's full attention. It's worth the effort.


LANTANA:   green

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002
EMAIL: bams@3blackchicks.com    ICQ: 7760005
http://www.3blackchicks.com/

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More 3BlackChicks...™ review(s) for this week:
(entertainment reviewed week of 2/1/02):
Bams' reviews:
Monster's Ball | Lantana
Inside TV Land: African-Americans In Television - Variety (TV review)


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