"Sweetie" is here! A Criterion treatment! The first time I saw "Sweetie" was purely by accident. It was before Jane Campion went on to make better known, bigger budget films--this film was her feature debut in Australia. And while I respect many of her works including "The Piano" and "An Angel At My Table", I don't have the passion for them that I do for this oddball of a movie. Part of the joy of seeing "Sweetie" for the first time was having no expectations. The film surprised me in every regard--it's wickedly funny, yet horrifying and moving at the same time. A few years ago, I found it again and I made my friends watch it, too. I was concerned it might not hold up to memory, but that feeling was short-lived as soon as the wondrous Genevieve Lemon came onscreen as Sweetie.
"Sweetie" is a film that really explores the notion of family. As the titular character, Sweetie is a powerful presence whose very existence has crippled her family and, in many ways, held them hostage. Primarily, we see things through Sweetie's sister Kay and I love that the film introduces us to the peculiarities of Kay without explanation. Then when Sweetie arrives on the scene, things start to become very clear as the family dynamic takes the foreground.
I consider "Sweetie" a comedy, but I'm not sure everyone would agree. But then, I have a bit of a sick sense of humor. Certainly there are many laughs to be had in the film--if only uncomfortable ones. But, make no mistake, there is also genuine and vivid emotional turmoil. The films success is that it balances these elements so well--and, in fact, that brings a bold realism and resonance to the proceedings.
The film is shot beautifully, and always slightly askew (which is perfect for the subject matter). The performances are vivid. Karen Colston is great as Kay, and you won't soon forget Lemon as Sweetie. And as odd as the film is, it will stay with you. And you just might recognize elements of your own family dynamic within the excesses presented! KGHarris, 9/06.