Movie: Mental (2012)

I didn't know much about Mental, the new Australian movie by writer/director P. J. Hogan and staring Toni Collette (reunited for the first time since Toni starred in Muriel's Wedding). All it took to get me interested was that it was Toni Collette playing a borderline, obnoxious but somehow still like-able Aussie and Rebecca Gibney (who could pretty much be in anything and I'd watch).

Rather than re-write the plot outline, here's what the movie's website has to say:
The film follows the story of the Moochmore girls who are certain they all suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness - because if they're not crazy then they're just unpopular. Their mother Shirley (Gibney), unable to cope with her demanding teenage daughters and philandering politician husband, Barry (LaPaglia), suffers a nervous breakdown. After Barry commits his wife to a mental hospital (telling his constituents that she's "on holiday") he finds himself alone with five teenage girls he barely knows. Desperate, he impulsively picks up a hitchhiker named Shaz (Collette) and installs her in his home as nanny to his daughters.
This film deserves to become a classic because it's one of the most original and least predictable movies you'll ever see. You know it's probably going to work out alright in the end but how it gets there is both hilarious, thoughtful and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

A lot of the movie's humor plays out like an exaggerated cartoon or perhaps stylized reality but it works really well because it feels like there's an element of truth in the base of the jokes.

Toni Collette's character (Shaz) could easily become the focus of several movies given her back story of weaving her way into people's lives. For me it's just awesome to see Toni play not just an Aussie but a broad, stereotypical Aussie (dare I say 'bogan') with a few character traits that clearly show she's actually not that stereotypical really.

Shaz is actually highly intelligent and seems like the most sane person in the whole film to begin with. Partnered with a very formidable dog called 'Rippa' she could be the female Mad Max of Dolphin Heads (the town the film is set in). The woman with the answers and the plan.

It's difficult to say too much about the film without spoiling the unpredictable nature and surprises as everything unfolds. However I know I wasn't expecting giant shark stories, porcelain doll carnage, or even a couple of memorable cameos by Sophie Lee (Toni's arch nemesis in Muriel's Wedding).

As crazy as it all is the film has a lot to say about people, family and relationships that could make you reflect a little on at least having known people who are bit like many of these characters.

My only (very minor) irritation about this movie was that it references American culture in a few places where, it might have been more likely for an Australian equivalent reference. Particularly where Barry Moochmore relates the story of how his father thought he and his brothers would grow up to be like the Kennedeys. It's not out of place but it feels like the reference is made so international audiences can know who he's talking about rather than have him reference someone only Aussies may know.

The film does contain coarse language but don't let that put you off. Everyone turns in a solid performance in what is a laugh out loud comedy where everybody is just a little bit mental to varying degrees.

Go and see it.


6 comments:

  1. Do you think I'd like it? I know it said it had language in it, but I can get around that if it's genuinely funny.

    I've seen a preview on TV, but didn't know whether the story seemed too wild and crazy. I don't really like Toni Collette when she's being off-beat and crazy. I enjoyed her in Muriels's Wedding of which I have the DVD of, and can watch it many times, plus being a fan of the dark girl in it whose name espcapes me just now. Also like 'The Black Balloon.'

    Couldn't decide on this one, but as I say, if it's funny I'll probably like it.

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    Replies
    1. It is genuinely funny and even thoughtful and emotionally engaging in places too. It's not quite as family friendly as Muriel's Wedding because the language in places does get very strong, however it's not out of place (and not all the way through - the film is partly about five children after all).

      The 'dark' Girl is Deborah Mailman who gives a very different performance to what you're used to. Excellent though.

      I do think you'd enjoy it. All the characters are interesting and the story twists and turns all over the place.

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  2. theres nothing funny about laughing at mental illness. PJ Hogan should be ashamed of himself

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    Replies
    1. The film is a character study. It's not laughing at mental illness at all.

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  3. I meant the dark haired girl in 'Muriel's Wedding.' I've looked at my DVD now, and it's Rachel Griffiths, whose in an American series at the moment. Can't remember that now, but it's not something I'm watching.

    I forgot to say that I didn't like 'United States Of Tara' much on TV, though Toni Collette played the characters very well. I only liked a couple of the characters, especially the one who was like one of the housewives that was in that film with Nicole Kidman, 'Stepford Wives' I think it was. Didn't like the male one but it was done well. I only watched some of it. Might look at this film later.

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  4. She was good in 'About A Boy' as well, except for that silly hat she used to wear - the knitted one with a tassle etc! I'm always pleased to see her looking nice instead of nerdy, though she does it well.

    Didn't get to see that film she did which I think was in Japan.

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