Projections - Movie Reviews

Lantana

Ray Lawrence's Lantana gets its name from a thorny thicket of a plant with colorful blossoms that happens to be seen in a garden of one member of a gifted ensemble lead by Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, and Barbara Hershey.

This dense, enveloping independent Australian film has a Robert Altman quality with a layered narrative and dark undertones from scenarist Andrew Bovell.  But it works through its complicated vignettes with a measure of understanding for its flawed individuals in the context of the subtleties with which they're presented.

Lawrence gets this mystery underway with a corpse seen within symbolic greenery and then cuts from the sounds of insects to rapturous ones.  A Sydney police detective, Leon Zat (LaPaglia, actually an Aussie) is in a heated scene with Jane (Rachael Blake) whom he knows from salsa dancing lessons with his wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong).

Leon is in a mid-life crisis and isn't drifting just for one night stands from Sonja who knows the man is miserable.  She wistfully looks for insight into their sterile relationship from Hershey's shrink, Dr. Valerie Somers, whose personal life has been uprooted.

Valerie is dealing with a tragedy along with husband (Geoffrey Rush of Shine and The Tailor of Panama) involving the kidnaping and murder of their daughter.

Some may not notice, except for the accents, that Lantana comes from down under given the versatility of the head liners.  Yet, this psychological drama isn't as thrilling an ensemble, ala The Ice Storm or American Beauty.  The plot works to ensnare the viewer with moments like a collision between a jogging Leon and Jane's ex-husband and the discovery of Sonja's secret visits to Dr. Somers during an investigation.

Some may find the interactions too idealistic, but the actors of Lantana, to their credit, hold the audience's attention around the intersecting doubts and distrust, among other individual motivations.

LaPaglia ranges well as the burly detective who is rueful and irate as his personal and professional life collide.  Blake puts much body language into Jane who needs contact to soothe her emotional wounds.  While Armstrong penetrates into Sonja's martial strife, Rush and Hershey understate their characters' mental anguish which figure into motifs of loneliness and infidelity.

Lawrence works with Bovell transforming his play "Speaking In Tongues" cogently enough to keep one caught up in what comes from a disappearance.

 
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