Mental

Mental

(2012)

Every family is a little bit mental.

Australian comedy-drama, from the director of Muriel's Wedding, with Toni Collette as the wild and hot-headed Shaz, the new nanny to five girls who are certain they all suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness.... More

The Moochmore girls' mother Shirley (Rebecca Gibney), unable to cope with her daughters and philandering politician husband Barry (Anthony LaPaglia), suffers a nervous breakdown. After Barry commits his wife to a mental hospital (telling his constituents that she's "on holiday") he finds himself alone with the five teenagers he barely knows. Desperate, he impulsively picks up hitchhiker Shaz and installs her in his home as nanny to his daughters.Hide

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Flicks Review

Confession: I had a poster on my bedroom wall of that deliciously tight-bunned Paul Mercurio when Strictly Ballroom came out so I clearly have a soft spot for big, brash Aussie cinema. Mental falls into that category. It’s so gaudy that if you go, take sunglasses. But don’t go. ... More

What Ballroom and PJ Hogan’s previous Toni Collette vehicle, Muriel’s Wedding, had were moments of emotional truth underpinning the vulgarity. Mental has noble intentions, supposedly inspired by the filmmaker’s experience with family members who suffer from mental illness, yet not one of the characters rings true which means it neither plucks on the heart strings nor tickles the funny bone. The jokes are obvious, ugly and unfunny. Periods on white couches, anyone?

How this script attracted such a stellar line up of Australian (and some New Zealand) talent is a mystery. Collette goes into overdrive as zany Shaz, the mysterious messiah of the outcast family. Poor Rebecca Gibney piled on 20kg for her role as the downtrodden mother driven around the bend by her absent, womanising husband. An almost unrecognisable Kerry Fox turns up as an uptight neighbour and Deborah Mailman as a lusty lesbian. American Liev Shreiber puts in the most convincing performance of the bunch as the grizzly Steve-Irwinesque shark hunter with a flawless Australian accent.

Hogan reprises his musical trick from Muriel’s Wedding but instead of wonderfully kitschy ABBA it’s The Sound of Music that forms the laboured soundtrack – to a much lesser effect. If there’s a morality tale in here somewhere it’s obliterated by Hogan’s blunt stick approach to humour. Enough to send you mental.Hide


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The Press Reviews

40% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • If you are willing to go along with the darker comedy, the outrageous nature of many scenes will leave you laughing openly. Full Review

  • He did it so well the first time with 'Muriel's Wedding' and it's much lesser this time, I think. For me it didn't work on almost every level. Full Review

  • Although PJ Hogan professes that he's representing real life as he knows it on screen, for audiences he walks a fine line between the grotesque and the compassionate and for me, he succeeds, painfully but gracefully. Full Review

  • The crux of Mental's irksome inability to entertain is that a majority of its comedy scenes resolutely fail in their goal to change perceptions of psychiatric illness. Full Review

  • Mental's flaws are never fatal, and its commitment to an unhinged, sometimes episodic, contrast between the crass and the poignant is a welcome comeback from a filmmaker whose Hollywood sojourn became increasingly straitjacketed. Full Review

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