Palatable: Heavenly Creatures

Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Produced by Jim Booth, Peter Jackson, Hanno Huth
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Diana Kent, Sarah Peirse, Simon O'Connor, Clive Merrison, Jed Brophy
Most B-moviemakers don't transition to mainstream fare with the daring patent in Jackson's breakout feature, but this dramatization of a matricide adapted from the murderess's diary that scandalized placid postwar Christchurch emanates the colorful ambition of its star director. In their pristine secondary school, a pair of overachieving eccentrics bond over their respective infirmities, imaginary transports, shared fixations and hateful insubordination. The wealthy, insolent British hysteric's (Winslet) vividly schizophrenic imagination exceeds and influences that of her moping loner (Lynskey), whose modest middle-class household both mortifies her and consolidates their mutual fealty. Spirited, sinful fantasies derived from royal histories and popular culture synthesize into their private mythos fashioned in sand and plasticine and illusion as their inhibitions and familial relations deteriorate pari passu, and their stark remove from reality redounds to murder all too casually. Juggling fantasy and drama handily, Jackson's realization of the wayward girls' chimeras, schemes and nympholepsy balances zeal with eye-popping practical and digital SFX. Neither these nor the accomplished secondary players dwarf the radiance of the erst unknown leads, acting their hearts out as the lunatic twosome whose preoccupancy of shared beauty and budding romance gradually sheds morality to the favor of their profligacy. In a style evolved from that of his independent pictures that anticipates his Tolkien epics, Jackson emphasizes exuberance with sweeping Steadicam, crane and aerial shots. Alas, the attractive production is drizzled with a dash of surplus treacle, but how better could one communicate the alternately brutal and adoring mawkishness of this concerted pathology?