Heavenly Creatures – Angst, Art and an Assassination

Based on true events that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand in the 50s, Heavenly Creatures tells the tragic story of Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), two teenage girls who form an obsessive relationship which ultimately leads them to murder Parker’s mother.

Heavenly Creatures bears the distinction being the film that launched the careers of both director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong) and actress Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader). I can see why on both counts.

The film’s lead characters, Juliet, the outspoken one, and Pauline, the more repressed one, deal with the pains and difficulties of growing up and dealing with their imperfect lives by forming a close bond with one another losing themselves in their own imaginary world that they call the fourth world. It is in this imaginary world that Peter Jackson’s visual creativity and Richard Taylor’s visual effects expertise manifest themselves. The effects of Heavenly Creatures are nowhere near as good as in Peter Jackson’s later blockbusters, but for a smaller budget film, the visuals in this film are actually pretty good. I especially enjoyed watching the living statues that populate the fourth world move about.

Pauline’s and Juliet’s parents, particularly Pauline’s mother, don’t approve of them spending so much time together and fear that their relationship may be turning into something more than just a friendship. There are plans to keep the two away. How will Pauline and Juliet deal with this dilemma? Murder makes sense, right?

Pauline and Juliet are very well established, but the other characters in the film are not especially well developed and mostly just feel cold and rigid. Considering that the film was partly based on Pauline Parker’s diary, I guess it makes sense that everyone who is not her or her friend come across as such. This also explains why the film has such creepy undertones throughout.

The acting, particularly Winslet’s, is good. The dialogue in the script is pretty well written, but the story does feel aimless at times.  The period sets and costumes are decent. Overall, the film is competently made and has a pretty artsy feel.

In my opinion, Heavenly Creatures is a well made film, but not an outstandingly great piece of cinema.  It did not make me think or feel anything beyond what an average movie experience would present, but that’s just me and my experience.