Monkey’s Mask

monkeysmaskA strange little movie based on a poem novel by an Australian author Dorothy Porter – a fact I had no idea about before watching it, but you can guess its literary roots from the kind of dialogue that probably sounds fine on the page but comes off as mighty pretentious and unnatural onscreen. The movie stars Susie Porter as Jill Fitzpatrick, a private detective who is hired to investigate the disappearance and subsequent murder of a young female student and a budding poet who, surprise surprise, turns out to have led a double life her parents had no idea about. Jill’s investigation leads her to the girl’s uni lecturer Diana (Kelly McGillis), who she is immediately attracted to. The two women embark on an affair that Diana’s younger husband (Marton Csokas) strangely doesn’t seem to mind, while Jill starts to receive spooky phone calls meant to scare her away from any further sleuthing.

The best thing the movie’s got going for it is Susie Porter, who is an appealing and engaging lead, with an open expressive face that’s both earthy and delicate. She has a believable chemistry with McGillis, who is also fine as the sophisticated, seductive Diana. The film itself however is an uneasy hodge-podge of a rather trite and trashy crime story and the low-budget arty pretensions – I almost thought that going for broke and fully embracing its pulpy side would have made for a much better movie. The supporting characters are barely sketched and poor Marton Csokas is saddled with some shockingly bad dialogue, and while most of the nudity and sex in the movie feels like a part of the story I’m not sure we needed to see his little Marton near the end of the film. Deborah Mailman pops up as Jill’s best friend, and I didn’t realise that the murdered girl was played by the very young Abbie Cornish, who even then had something alluring about her.

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