Thursday, July 30, 2009
Beautiful is a stylised urban legend from first time writer/director Dean O’Flaherty. Borrowing from David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock, with a dash of Desperate Housewives, O’Flaherty’s debut is an intriguing glimpse behind the idyllic façade of South Australian suburb, Summer Hill.
Reclusive 14-year-old Danny (Sebastian Gregory) turns detective when lured by his seductress neighbour Suzy (Tahyna Tozzi) to investigate the recent disappearances of neighbourhood girls. Danny’s talent for photography is both a source of titillation for the brazen Suzy as well as their key to uncover whether the tenants of the derelict number 46 are responsible for the missing girls. Hampering Danny’s efforts is the ghostly Jennifer (Asher Keddie); ever present at the front window of the creepy house, yet she also holds a clue to a much more personal mystery.
Visually, Beautiful lives up to its title. O’Flaherty has a confident and colourful aesthetic and is well able to turn the safe suburbia spooky. His atmospheric shots and stylised black and white crime montage also make great use of Paul Mac’s dramatic score, the theatricality of which evokes the playful suspense of a Grimm’s Fairytale.
However the film falters with the writing. O’Flaherty includes single shot scenes of clunky exposition and bookends the film with heavy-handed narration from a wasted Deborra-lee Furness. Aaron Jeffery as Danny’s father is similarly one-note, while Tozzi’s performance is more stiff than sultry. And though Gregory’s wide-eyed protagonist works well, the stand out performance is by Peta Wilson as Danny’s conflicted stepmother, Sherrie.
Beautiful succeeds in uncovering the seemier side of suburbia. And yet the film struggles between being a mere scary story, or something truer.
This review also appeared in The Brag
Beautiful is now available to rent or buy on DVD.