Suburban Mayhem

Review by Jane Freebury

If you just closed your eyes and listened to the blonde in black bustier, nails like bloodied talons and killer stilettos, there’d be time you thought this young single mum, living at home with her dad, was a pillar of society among the brick veneer and tidy lawns of suburban Golden Grove, NSW.

“All I’m trying to do is keep this family together,” Katrina huffs at her father over dinner though she has already hatched plans to murder him. And to her beautician she complains that he doesn’t appreciate how hard it is to be a full-time mother for her baby daughter. “These are impressionable years.”

Declarations like these only add to the irony, and there’s plenty of it in this pitch black comedy about a brutally amoral 19-year-old who knows exactly how to play the system and how to get what she wants from everyone around her. Only her brother Danny seems to have a hold on her, but he’s been parked in prison indefinitely for slicing someone’s head off with a samurai sword.

Kat Skinner is a bad girl of the worst kind, created by writer Alice Bell who has done a terrific job with the screenplay, and Emily Barclay (In My Father’s Den) brings her to life, a screen sister to Juliette Lewis of Natural Born Killers.

Perched on the bonnet of a yellow Valiant Charger, swigging a bottle of bourbon, she’s a Janice Joplin of the noughties, and the dark side of girl power. I can already see fights break out over those striking movie posters and but I can’t imagine what sort of reception the same movie would get if the anti-hero was a promiscuous manipulator instead who had his mother killed so he could inherit her house.

The movie tries too hard at times to empower Katrina with a pounding soundtrack, but otherwise the direction from Paul Goldman (who directed the very funny The Night They Called It A Day) is nimble and assured and his comic timing faultless. And none of his actors let him down.

One thing worries me though. Not to take anything away from the script – even minor characters like Kenny’s sister get good lines – the plot points are almost identical to a recent murder case in Wollongong. Shouldn’t it have been nominated for adapted screenplay in the AFI awards?

4 stars