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EYE OF THE STORM
DIRECTOR: Fred Schepisi
CAST: Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Alexandra Schepisi, Helen Morse
Age restriction: 16LNS
Running time: 118 minutes
Patrick White is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers as a Nobel Prize winner but there’s a reason his densely layered novels have never made it on to the screen. Fred Schepisi is another name that should sound familiar. His last movie Cry in the Dark starred Meryl Streep as the mother accused of killing her baby daughter.
It is worrying that it took more than 20 years to come up with his next one and sadly, the movie fails mostly because of script and direction. Yes, Charlotte Rampling is brave to have herself turned into a dying woman but it should have been a role of a lifetime, instead it wobbles on melodrama which is nasty rather than endearing.
Her two children (Davis and Rush) return on a visit from their new homes in Britain and Europe because she’s seemingly on her deathbed. The implication, though, is that they’re simply there to defend their inheritance. It’s clear from the start that this is not a happy family.
And if you know White’s writing, it’s probably impossible for him to go to that happy place. What he does well is to scratch around the belly of the beast without any squirming while unearthing dark family secrets.
In this instance, the mother saw the daughter as her competitor and anything she had, the mother had to usurp with no feelings for her darling child. The son was also the sun of her life but instead of basking in the warmth of his love, she smothered him and sent him scuttling halfway across the world.
Rampling, Rush and Davis are enough to have anyone rushing to the movies but again, Schepisi had no idea what he wanted to do, how he was going to tell the story or get the best from his actors. To get three bad performances from such performers, (think Rush in King’s Speech and just wait for Davis in Woody Allen’s new film To Rome with Love) is a feat, but also tragic that such powerhouse acting can be squandered so simply. It shows how easily even the best get it wrong.
Nepotism is another of the director’s crimes as he casts his daughter as one of the nurses caring for Rampling’s failing but never faltering mother. Thankfully, she does a sterling job but the minor characters and how they perform can do little to save an already sinking ship.
Even starring the heavyweights in the business doesn’t always do the trick. It all begins with the storytelling and if that’s goes wrong, it’s a tough ask. It could have been a dynamic drama. Instead the script is predictable, the performances couldn’t go anywhere, while Schepisi heightens bad melodrama with a film that panders to a director’s overwrought sense of the dramatic with bare essentials rather than a story with substance.
If you liked… Ang Lee’s Ice Storm… you might like this.