For anybody who thinks, "man, that Anthony LaPaglia sure has a good Australian accent," there's a really good reason. LaPaglia (Autumn in New York, The House of Mirth) was born in Australia. Hard to believe, but hey, it's true. LaPaglia's new film Lantana is one of those rare films made for an older, sophisticated audience. Lantana, adapted from the play Speaking in Tongues by author Andrew Bovell, is an examination of marriage and fidelity, seen through two failing marriages. Leon Zat (LaPaglia) and his wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong, Justice, Amy) are one and John Knox (Geoffrey Rush, Quills, The Tailor of Panama) and Dr. Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey, Passion, Drowning on Dry Land).
Leon is a detective who is having an affair with Jane O'May (Rachel Blake, The Letter, The Three Stooges). The two met in a dance class Leon attends with Sonja. It feels like Leon had the affair almost out of boredom, and it ends quickly. Sonja suspects something because lately, Leon is withdrawn, distant, and prone to staying out late. John and Valerie's marriage suffered after the murder of their daughter. Like Leon, John is increasingly distant. Valerie, a psychiatrist, has a gay patient who is having an affair with a married man. Although there is no evidence, Valerie begins to believe that the married man is her husband.
Everything in Lantana is paced and methodical, thanks to director Ray Lawrence (Bliss). The story takes place in areas surrounded with lantana, a plant with a dense undergrowth. This serves to represent the relationships. They look good on the surface, but as one examines each couple, things become increasingly convoluted. The lantana also serves to further the plot development that brings the two couples together. Lawrence and Bovell inextricably link the two couples together, which allows them to wallow in each other's guilt and pain. The acting is uniformly superb, focusing more on measured responses as opposed to any sort of over-the-top theatrics.
Rush and LaPaglia in particular show an incredible amount of depth in their restraint. Guilt, boredom, rage, and any number of emotions are rolling through their heads, but their characters, for the most part, attempt to repress them all. This affects them in other ways; in the ways the talk to their spouses and interact with others. These feelings surface in Leon as short bursts of rage.Valerie and Sonja do not know what to do, and life for them becomes more frustrating. Lawrence milks this increasing sense of resentment and paranoia in all of the four principals until it reaches a fever pitch, with a surprising dark sense of humor surfacing every once in a while. By the time Lantana is over, every viewer has an uneasy feeling, because everybody experiences at least a little bit of what these couples went through.
|Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|2 hours, 1 minute, Rated R for language and sexuality.|
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