I'm going to re-post some reviews I've done over the years on another moribund web site. I'm goint to start with a review of Lantana, a sadly neglected Australian film that was just wonderful. I originally watched this on May 26, 2003.
Lantana is a "a noxious and troublesome weed", according to the movie's official web site, and symbolizes the tangled web we weave, when relationships get weird. It bills itself as a "mystery for grownups", but it is as much about people as it is about the case getting solved. A fascinating look into four troubled marriages, this movie import from Australia was one of my favorites of this year.
Detective Leon Zat, played with astonishing intensity by Without a Trace's Anthony LaPaglia, is called in to investigate the myserious disappearance of psychiatrist Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey). Zat is plagued by his own demons, the biggest of which is his guilt over cheating on his wife of many years, Sonja (longtime Australian TV actress, Kerry Armstrong), so he has a hard time staying focused on the possible crime. He immediately suspects Somers' husband (Geoffry Rush), and leans on him very harshly from the start
Things get even more strained for Det. Zat when his lover (Rachael Blake) witnesses her friend and neighbor behaving in a very odd manner the very night of Somers' disappearance, and finally works up the courage to call her suspicions in to the police. Accusations fly, tempers flare, marriages crumble and, finally, the case gets solved. But all the relationships are strained to the breaking point, and the movie ends with lives in disarray.
Some have complained that the movie depended too much on coincidence, and there are several of them. But none of them are central to the mystery; they just make for some interesting and humorous twists to the story, like when Zat and his lover's ex-husband unknowingly bump into each other at a bar one evening, and talk about life, then later meet at her house. The serendipity of several of the meetings just adds to the wonderful spice of the movie, not detract from it.
The performances all around were standouts. LaPaglia was great as the tormented (admittedly by his own weaknesses) detective. Hershey was good as the psychiatrist who goes missing, and Rush as her forlorned husband, as they both struggled to overcome the murder of their young daughter many years ago, gradually drifting further and further apart. The two main female protagonists (Anderson and Blank) really play their roles with aplomb, as the suffering wife and the disaffected lover, roles that can be hard to pull off without being caricatures.
The DVD was pretty solid, with nice visuals, excellent music (a taste of which can be found on the web site), and some clever camera work. Not too many extras, just a little "Making of..." puff piece that at least adds some to the explanation of the movie and its actors. This is one library DVD that I'm definitely thinking of adding to my collection, as its portrayal of real people with real problems is watchable many times over.