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Customer Review

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Come with me...", April 18, 2003
This review is from: Heavenly Creatures (DVD)
"How can these heavenly creatures be real?" asks Pauline in one scene of "Heavenly Creatures," the exquisite and horrifying docudrama of a real-life murder in New Zealand. Peter Jackson uses spectacular special effect, great actors, and outstanding direction to show us how these heavenly creatures became monsters.

In 1952, Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a loner at her proper New Zealand school, until the day Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) arrives -- an intelligent, witty, daring girl who appeals to Pauline. They share a love of the arts, writing, sculpting, drawing, fantasy, and tenor Mario Lanza. Soon the two of them are nearly inseparable, spinning their fantastical tales of castles, knights, unicorns and beautiful ladies. (The foremost ladies, Deborah and Gina, are modelled on themselves) Even Juliet's four month stint in the hospital doesn't separate the girls through their letters and shared fantasies. But soon Juliet's father (Clive Merrison) becomes concerned that their close friendship is "unhealthy." It is, but not just in the way he thinks.

The two girls' emotional attachment has turned incredibly intense, so that they barely think of anyone but each other, and the fantasy stories begin to seep into reality for them . Pauline drops out of school and stops talking to her parents; Juliet learns that her mother is sleeping with one of her clients, and that her parents are divorcing. Now she's being sent to South Africa, and there is no telling when she will see Pauline again. Unless they do something about their parents so that they can stay together... such as murder.

Peter Jackson kicks off "Heavenly Creatures" by emphasizing what a beautiful, in most ways peaceful country (via a cheesy 1950s documentary). But he rapidly shows that beauty is not everything -- the complex and beautiful fantasy land of Borovnia has a sort of amorality in its stories, that reflects the girls' own minds. Their mothers are problematic -- one is selfish, the other is controlling -- but the girls begin to see them as mere obstacles to be dealt with. Jackson doesn't just show what the two did, but showed why they did it. But even then, he doesn't sugarcoat anything.

Melanie Lynskey is excellent as Pauline; she has something of the look of both a child and a woman, switching between smiles and sullenness, depending on who she's speaking to. And the luminous Kate Winslet plays the somewhat devil-may-care Juliet, whose vivacity and charm overrule any of Pauline's reservations. "It's everyone else who's bonkers!" she says gleefully when Pauline casts doubt on her own sanity. The supporting actors are also good, especially Clive Merrison and Honora Peirse as Juliet's dad and Pauline's mom, who are both concerned about their children.

The dialogue is outstanding, both chilling and simple ("Our main idea for the day was to murder Mother"; "we decided to use a rock in a stocking, rather than a sandbag..."). And Richard Taylor's handling of the CGI and prosthetics is oustanding. One particularly vivid scene has a hillside transforming into an exquisite garden. And nobody except Peter Jackson could have pulled off the idea of including living clay figurines or four-foot-wide butterflies, but somehow it not only works, but adds to the surreality of the story. Jackson's unique camerawork is here as well; if you enjoy his swooping shots and close-ups, then this will be a treat to watch.

The DVD is pretty bare-bones, unfortunately, without a "making of" or director's commentary -- or much of a look at the real-life events of this film. There are some trailers for other movies, and the trailer for this one as well. (Which is not so amazing because it wobbles a little as it played)

While Juliet went on to become bestselling murder mystery writer Anne Perry, no one is entirely certain what happened to Pauline. This movie is frighteningly vivid, beautifully made, and exquisitely directed, destined to be a modern classic.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 17, 2012 4:22:24 PM PDT
WOW - Anne Perry is one of the characters in this movie? I don't read her books, but her name is all over every book store...so...you COULD say this film is a "celebrity biopic" ey?

Posted on Jun 6, 2015 8:28:02 AM PDT
Are you basing your review on the movie that is contained on the DVD that you reviewed? The DVD releases, most if not all of them, are "uncut"...which makes no sense, because no movie in the history of filmmaking that anyone remembers is literally uncut. Editors are PAID to cut movies! Anyway, based on the other reviews from Amazon customers, the DVD/uncut editions are stupid, to stint a long story. I don't know if you never saw the VHS edition and just accepted the DVD w/o question or if you saw both but have no taste...? Or perhaps neither?...
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