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Heavenly Creatures: A Flawed Picture of Paradise

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Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994) is a movie about two teenage girls who have an “unhealthy” relationship with each other. The suggestion is that they are lesbians, but I think such a jump to conclusion is misgiven. After all, they’re just 15.

In any case, they’re creative types who are bored and disgusted with the mundaneness of the everyday world. In order to escape their cages, they invent a world of their own, rife with kings, queens, knights, and royal scandals. They start out by making clay figurines in an attempt to give life to the world in their minds, and soon enough, the clay figures take on a reality of their own. Because the two girls are both integral parts of the world they have created (one imagines herself as the queen, the other imagines herself as the king), they become inseperable in the real world. Their imagined world manifests itself in the real world through this intense, “unhealthy” relationship.

The ideas presented in this movie are genuine, interesting, and worthy of one’s contemplation. That much is undisputed. However, I thought that Peter Jackson showed remarkably little restraint in the making of this film. The scenes where the clay figures come to life are rather silly and awkward, and the first few scenes involving the two girls just running and laughing, and running and laughing, and running and laughing, were just too much for me to handle.

The two girls are played by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. Neither of their performances are noteworthy. I always felt like they were acting, and not living, the roles. I didn’t find that the chemistry that their roles required was present in their portrayals. Also, the inflections in Kate Winslet’s voice were rather disconcerting. Her voice sometimes reminded me of the voice of Linda Blair while possessed by Satan in The Exorcist.

This movie is worth watching only for the ideas that it attempts to present, but not for the actual presentation of those ideas. There’s a sense that these girls have such a creative spirit about them that they transcend the morality of the everyday world. They are akin to Nietzschean overmen in that sense. Indeed, the girls’ final, harrowing act together confirms this. However, there can be no such claim to greatness for the film itself. The greatness lies only the story.

I’d give Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures a C+.

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