‘Mental’ Movie Review – We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes
Dark comedies aren’t easy. The balance between funny and serious has to be exact, but Australian filmmaker PJ Hogan has a long history of successfully finding that balance, and his new film, Mental, is no exception. Starring Toni Collette (as did Hogan’s most well-known film, Muriel’s Wedding), the movie revolves around the Moochmore family, some of whom are genuinely crazy, some of whom are simply being driven there by association.
Collette plays Shaz, a bit of a nutcase herself, who is hired by absentee dad Mr. Moochmore (Anthony LaPaglia) to watch over his family after his wife, Shirley (Rebecca Gibney), has to be committed, leaving their five teenage girls behind to fend for themselves. The daughters are led by 18 year old Coral (newcomer Lily Sullivan) who desperately wants to be crazy if only to explain why she’s not popular. Their aunt Doris (Caroline Goodall) would rather use the girls for hair for her freakish dolls than actually care for them.
Fraternal neglect is a theme in Hogan’s films, and it’s in full force here, but unlike Muriel who learned to stand up for herself, Collette’s Shaz helps the girls find a way to hold onto their sanity…even as her own begins to slip away. She’s like a fairy godmother who curses and spits word bombs and sees the whole world as one great big pot of absolute loonies. To say she’s brilliant in the role would be an understatement.
But enough can’t be said about the rest of the cast. Everyone is at the top of their game, even Liev Schreiber who plays a crazed shark hunter who operates a road-side attraction where Coral works. He isn’t much of a father figure, but he’s all she’s got, and he brings a lot of heart to the role, as well as a lot of crazy.
That’s the brilliance of the film. From the opening shot in which a suburban backyard replaces the Austrian mountains in Shirley’s nutty recreation of the ionic start of The Sound of Music, all the way to the final sing-along that descends into delicious chaos, Hogan reminds us that everyone in the world is just plain crazy, especially when gathered together as a family, and even the supposedly perfect von Trapp’s broke into song all the time. That’s nothing if not a little bit nutters.
Mental opens in limited release on Friday, March 29th.