“Rolls Royce” of Australian Films for Sunday Film Club

May 20, 2014

What has been described as “the best Australian movie in the last 20 years” screens on Sunday as the May Film Club choice?

“Lantana” is a gripping Australian drama incorporating the “best of the best” in Australian film – the pen of playwright Andrew Bovell, the direction of Ray Lawrence, the production of Jan Chapman and a cast of Australian and international actors that would be extremely difficult to ever assemble again.

Released at the Sydney Film Festival in 2001, “Lantana” went on to scoop the pool at the A.F.I. Film Awards – Best actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best-adapted screenplay and, to top it off, Best Film. It was equally successful at the box office – just under 16 million dollars and releases in the US and Great Britain.

But what a cast! Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo, Russell Dykstra, Daniel Farinacci, Peter Phelps, Leah Purcell and Glen Robbins – all attracted to a Jan Chapman production, a Ray Lawrence direction and a screenplay adaptation from Andrew Bovell, who wrote the play (“Speaking in Tongues”) on which the film is based.

“Lantana” is set in suburban Sydney and focuses on the complex relationships between the characters in the film. The central event of the film is the disappearance and death of a woman whose body is shown at the start of the film but whose identity is not revealed until later.

The film’s name derives from the plant – a weed prevalent in suburban Sydney.

For Director Ray Lawrence, it was a welcome return following his 1985 hit “Bliss”. He went on after “Lantana” to direct another Australian icon “Jindabyne”.

“Lantana” is a tour-de-force for Geoffrey Rush, surely Australia’s foremost actor with an Academy Award (“Shine”), and three other nominations. Rush has the unique distinction of having taken out the “triple crown” of acting credits – an Oscar (film), a Tony (stage) and an Emmy (Television). Anthony LaPaglia, who many think is American due to his massive success in that country, was actually born in Adelaide. Barbara Hershey, born in Hollywood, is as American as you can get, and has featured in 62 films including such hits as “Beaches” with Bette Midler, “Hannah and her Sisters” for Woody Allen and, more recently, “Black Swan.” Acclaimed film critic Evan Williams described “Lantana” as “a film of searching beauty and power”, and awarded it five stars. “Lantana” is rated M, runs for 121 minutes, and is highly recommended.

Memberships are still welcomed by the NWTC Film Club, and can now be obtained for only $42, which covers the final seven films for the season plus the Christmas club special in December.

This is great value. Temporary memberships are available for $10 per film, and are beginning to attract a number of visitors. Memberships can be obtained at the Visitor Information Centre, or at the Roxy prior to the screening.

A reminder that “Lantana” screens at 4.00 pm on Sunday.