28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Silly me. Watching this film I thought Lantana was some sort of exotic dance but apparently it's a thorny shrub and this film opens with a women's unidentified body lying in amongst this shrub. The shrub is also a metaphor for the entangled lives on display. As the plot unfolds we gradually learn her identity through the intertwining lives of several people, most of them couples undergoing various levels of relationship strife.
Adapted from a stage play "Speaking in Tongues" it occasionally reveals its source through a series of low key scenes that rely on talking heads but is no less engrossing for that. It's almost soap opera mixed with the labyrinthine narrative of "Pulp Fiction" or "Go".
These are ordinary lives and at times what is happening can seem a little banal but every scene leads us inexorably on to revealing the identity of the unfortunate murder victim and the performances are so good that you should be gripped anyway. Lapaglia as the hangdog cop Leon is superb. Rush gives an understated performance as the husband of Valerie, the ever excellent Barbara Hershey. However the real star is Kerry Armstrong as Valerie, Leons wife in who's face constantly and believably radiates all the frustrations, betrayals and tiny hurts everyday life can bring.
The movies somnolent pace can become a tad wearisome at times but it's worth paying close attention as that's where the real pleasure in watching this film is to be derived and it rewards that attention handsomely.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2003
Lantana failed to pull in the viewers at the box-office, struggling to find a identifiable target audience, and definitely not appealing to those in for an all out blockbuster on a Friday night. Following its 13 AFI nominations interest has peaked, being critically acclaimed, and in several reviews lauded as ‘film of the year’. Certainly, the movie proves that absorbingly written and captivatingly acted dramas can entertain on the big screen, especially when so many themes are intangled throughout.
Leon Zat (LaPaglia) is an adulterous detective, confused about his impending middle age, and troubled by his teenage son’s pot-smoking habits. His marriage is failing, and unbeknownst to Leon, his wife, Sonja, is seeing a psychiatrist, Valerie Somers, who has recently suffered a traumatic, emotionally crushing experience of her own. Add to this several other engrossing characters – a happily married couple with three children, their neighbour Jane, whom Leon had his affair with, and a female cop who does her best to control the ever erratic Leon, and the gripping plot unfolds as the characters lives intersect when one of them turns up missing.
Andrew Bovell’s script is based on the original stage play ‘Speaking in Tongues’ and the dialogue is one of the most important aspects here. The soundtrack is at times banal and the camerawork, although apt, is far from exceptional. Thus it is the script and acting which director Ray Lawrence has totally relied upon to pull this psychological mystery-thriller off. He is successful, but only just, as at times the film borders on being no more than a Wednesday night ITV drama.
Credit must be given to the cast who are exceptional, and they needed to be as all the characters in Lantana are fully developed, often with a precision that is astounding. The acting is all the more important, since Lawrence doesn’t go for a middle-of-the-road thriller, concentrating on the domestic lives of characters, creating a moody-tale of marriage and infidelity and the complex emotional tangle that these topics raise. The coincidences that drive the plot are believable enough, but when put into context can appear far too improbable, and constructed.
Lantana is a flowering shrub, which was imported into Australia sometime ago, and has since spread to the wild. It’s entangled, twisted and knotted branches are a fitting metaphor for the intertwined lives of the characters. Unfortunately, this movie fails to be as stunning as the plant itself, and will be viewed by many as a dull, uneventful story, while other will love its clever interactions and characterisations. At the end of the day, just don’t expect an easy viewing. This films rewards attention, and despite its flaws will definitely stand up to repeat viewings.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Australian Director Ray Lawrence's second movie and his first for 17 years is an articulate, intelligent and totally compelling examination of human relationships, as well as a thought provoking thriller. Award winning and critically acclaimed, this is the type of movie that Oscar should be honouring, instead of the commercial Hollywood formulaic mediocrity the Academy often seems to prefer.
Lantana opens with camera panning down through a tangle of shrubs to reveal the dead body of a woman, stockings ripped and one shoe missing. Immediately drawn to this image we are led to wonder who the dead woman is and to wonder how she died and who killed her but rather than this being merely a thriller it is also a highly intelligent and very rewarding examination of troubled marriage. The title 'Lantana' perhaps doesn't translate well to most countries outside of Australia. It is never explained during the movie, which is a bit of a shame, because Lantana (the name of the tropical shrub which surrounds the deceased) is used as a metaphor for the web of tangled relationships portrayed throughout this film.
At the centre of the plot is Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia), a burnt-out forty something Sydney police detective. Over-weight and troubled by chest pains, he is conducting an affair with a woman by the name of Jane O'May (Rachael Blake), who is separated from her husband. Meanwhile, unbeknown to Leon, his unhappy wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) is seeing a therapist, Valerie (Barbara Hershey) about their troubled marriage. However, Valerie's own marriage is also in crisis: Following the death of her 11-year-old daughter her husband (Geoffrey Rush) no longer engages in sexual relations and appears to deliberately avoid spending time with her, whilst often "working late at the office". Leading Valerie to suspect her husband of a homosexual affair with one of her clients, Michael, who appears to be baiting her.
A third couple are also central to the plot and become embroiled in the tangled web; unemployed Nik (Vince Colosimo) and his wife (Keira Wingate) live with their kids next door to Leon's mistress, Jane. Nik is friendly with Jane's estranged husband, Pete (Glen Robbins) but overlooks Jane's 'affair', on the advice of his wife, when he spots Leon leaving his mates house. Meanwhile two other relationships between gay Michael and his married lover and Leon's police partner and a mystery stranger also play out in this beautifully judged, thoughtful and well-written movie, adapted by Andrew Bovell from his original stage play, Speaking in Tongues.
Not only is 'Lantana' well-written and well-directed but it has depth. At its core are the central themes of trust, grief, fidelity, betrayal and redemption. Anthony LaPaglia (The Client, So I Married An Axe Murderer), Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and Kerry Armstrong all give great performances, subtly conveying a broad range of emotions throughout the course of the movie. In particular, LaPaglia, an Australian perhaps best known for his TV appearances (Murder One, Frasier, Without A Trace) and whom I previously assumed was Italian-American, is superb as Leon and it is his uncompromising performance that is at the core of this excellent film.
Ray Lawrence, an Aussie TV commercials director must take enormous credit too for the pace and balance of the movie, as well as the performances, which are all pitch-perfect. Lantana is at once a psychological thriller/drama, an essay in love, and an intelligent examination of human relationships, marriage and fidelity. After making this little gem of a movie, let's just hope that Ray Lawrence doesn't wait another 17 years before making his next one.
Totally compelling, Lantana kept me hooked throughout every moment of its two-hour minute running time. If you're open minded and looking for something intelligent, this absorbing and superbly acted Australian drama that shouldn't be missed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wrapped around an investigation that appears to be a murder, this story explores the lives of 4 interlinked couples. THree of them are in a serious crisis - infidelity, splitting up, grief - and are pondering the meaning of it all while groping towards reconciliation or compromise or perhaps divorce. The tone is unrelentingly sad, making it an agony to watch, particularly if you have felt pain and alienation in a marriage that once worked.
While the investigation side serves as a kind of plot device, it has barely begun by the middle of the film. Instead, the viewer gets a picture of each marriage, vividly and concisely portrayed like a series of vignettes, and the acting is positively excellent. For example, Barbara Hershey exudes a disturbing, if functional, depression as she attempts to treat some pretty troubled patients - it is a wonderful portrayal of emotional ricochet, where their issues get her to reflect deeply on her own life. Hershey has never been better. Though brief, each view is utterly convincing, indeed rivetting in the way a poem can have an emotional impact in an entirely different way from a novel. It is very successful art.
I recommend this film as a valuable exploration of couples in mid life. Very good, realistic drama, including the investigation. But it is not fun to watch and I doubt I will want to again any time soon. Rather than uplifting, it is stark and naked.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2003
Wow!, this film is a gem! It's got everything, great characters, a murder mystery, unexpected turns, high drama and even a few good laughs. It's really the actors (and the awesome script) that have it here, noone puts a foot wrong, and though they all have traits we may not like, they are real and draw you easily into their worlds. Shot as an ensemble piece, weaving in and out of several lives, it is Anthony La Paglia's troubled cop who provides cohesion and he carries the responsibility of lynch pin without faltering. He is magnetic and along with the rest of the sublime cast, including Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush, they tell a story that unfolds a little at a time, building tension, veering left and right now and then, but always keeping you locked right in the moment.
Incredibly this film was shot using only natural light, even the night scenes were shot using just what was available, and this only adds to the realism of the atmosphere. The DVD version has a worthy documentary about the making of the film and there are cast interviews and so on, but make no mistake, the movie is the main event.
I can't recommend this highly enough, it's like an Australian 'Magnolia', only better.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2004
This is one of those films that you won't forget - it is excellently done: good acting, good script, suspenseful, and it actually makes you think. A series of characters are presented and brought together - partly by chance and partly by a tragedy. The method of telling the story leaves you in suspense until the very end and cleverly leads you down a path that winds and winds but does make sense....A definite must
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When I first saw this taut moody thriller, I found it absorbing, but I simply could not identify with the characters (which are, nevertheless, portrayed by an excellent ensemble cast). Why, I thought, doesn't an otherwise intelligent woman--a psychiatrist yet--who has wrecked her car, and has walked several kilometers down a dark lonely road to a pay-phone, call 999 (or its Australian equivalent)? And I found Anthony Lapaglia simply unappealing. That was then.
I have since watched the film several more times. As for my first complaint, I have come to understand the onslaught of hysteria in the physician who is in need of healing herself. As for Anthony Lapaglia, I have gotten used to him (The traditional handsome Hollywood hero he isn't!) and have come to admire him in the television show, "Without A Trace." Therefore I have cast aside my initial prejudice and now fully appreciate what an accomplished actor he is in "Lantana." Lapaglia is an excellent foil for Geoffrey Rush, who turns in a moving performance as the twice-bereaved Professor of Law.
The director presents a series of relationships that are as thorny and thick as the lantana hedges--which seem alive with shrilling cicadas--that run riot along the Sidney roadsides. He also subtly misdirects the attention of the audience, which may think it has cleverly intuited the solution to the mystery, but gradually realizes that it has been skillfully guided through the tangled Lantana maze and sent down the wrong garden path altogether.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2003
Absolutely superb. A wonderful film about relationships. One of the best if not the best film I have watched recently. Well filmed, acted and directed. Give it a try you won't be disappointed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The entire cast of this film is excellent. Very natural and convincing throughout, making for a very good ensemble piece. Anthony La Paglia does stand out as the "star of the show" and somehow seems at the centre of it all.
The plot unfolds very slowly, but the lack of pace is deliberate and important. I think with a film like this you need to be able to form some sort of bond with each character in order to care enough about the outcome at the end of it, and (unlike the director's other film Jindabyne) it's to a large extent achieved.
I think it's important that anyone thinking of watching this does realise it's not purely a whodunit type thriller, although it does have that element about it. It's more a drama with different strands that come together and share a common "crunch point". In that respect it is somewhat similar to dramas like Shortcuts, Magnolia, Crash, but less complex and smaller cast of characters that the three I've just mentioned.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2003
This is a gem of an Aussie movie, not very easily summed up in a short description. The themes explored in the film are familiar enough; people that appear to be coping but scratch the surface and they are experiencing extreme inner turmoil.
The lead protagonist is a tough cop played with aplomb by Anthony LaPaglia, whom i once thought was a decidedly mediocre actor.(especially after his cringe worthy stint on tv's 'Frasier').His character in Lantana is a slightly diluted version of LA Confidential's Bud White, yet the changes his character goes through towards the end of the film are quite touching. Geoffrey Rush who also stars has never been better and the three female leads are all excellent.
The dvd is supposed to contain an informative commentary from the director and an insightful 40 min docu'. I'll definately be buying this movie in the very near future, as i feel it will withstand repeated viewing.