This weekend I picked out a nice little film from Australia. I selected it for the fact that the Sound of Music plays a role in the movie and I wanted a comedy and from the trailer this is what you expect to watch. Mental is the latest film by PJ Hogan and it is based on events from his own life. As usual please be advised that spoilers are below this point.
From the get go the film starts with an almost shot for shot remake of The Sound of Music opening (they zoom in on Maria on top of the Alps from faraway) and that had me laughing up a storm. We are introduced to Shirley and her five daughter (Coral, Jane, Michelle, Kayleen and Leanne) all of whom believe have a mental illness. Shirley’s husband Barry (Anthony LaPaglia) is the mayor of the town who is absent from the family life as he’s been a philanderer for years. Shirley has a mental breakdown and Barry has her put in a mental hospital, and tell the kids to say that she is on holiday. So Barry finds himself and he it seems is also going to snap but he picks up a hitchhiker, Shaz (Toni Collette), to look after the family.
Shaz at first seems strange to the girls as she’s this lady in the house when they get home but over time they warm to her. The girls clean up the house, do the cooking and everything seem normal. This is where Shaz then helps the girls out with each of their problems. Shaz has this great idea that the world is insane, and everyone is mental, since Australia was formed as a penal colony far from everyone else Shaz suggests that they sent individuals with mental problems as well. She carries a DSM-IV and she shows the girls that some of their neighbours are even more mental than their mother, and that not everyone of them is mental. Shaz also encourages all the girls to stand up for themselves. They even try to get Barry to come home and have dinner with his children, this is unsuccessful as he shows up but soon retreats to his room for the evening. Shaz wakes Barry in the middle of the night to witness Michelle’s schizophrenia to help her get some help.
Shaz brings the family back together, and Shirley leaves Barry. After this Barry calls the cops on Shaz and tries to get her arrested but that’s the other plot of the movie and don’t want to ruin the whole thing. Shaz gets sent to the mental hospital and the girls with their mother’s help try to break her out. Later on Barry want Shirley and the girls to be at the launch of his campaign and Shirley agrees on one condition that he sing Edelweiss with the family on stage at the event.
The film was great Toni Collette is the thing that holds the film together as the absurd Shaz. This film also gives a nice look at mental disease all to often in film it seems that mental problems are brushed aside or used in negative ways. Yet this film embraces the idea that all people have some type of mental illness, if you look close enough. This was a nice little comedy, and I can’t believe i have seem almost all of PJ Hogan’s movies. If you are a big Sound of Music fan this film will be a great thing to see.