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Posts Tagged ‘Emma Booth’

“H IS FOR HAPPINESS”  My rating: B- (Available Sept. 18 on VOD/digital)

98 minutes | No MPAA rating

The Aussie “H Is for Happiness” aspires to the quirky uplift of “Amelie,” only for the tweener crowd.

Every now and then it gets there.

John Sheedy’s film is set in a postcard pretty town that seems timeless despite the very modern wind turbines that dot the landscape. It’s the sort of place where kids can run free, playing in the nearby forests and ranging far and wide on their bikes without fear.  We never see a cop, probably because they’d be superfluous.

Our pint-sized heroine is 12-year-old Candice (Daisy Axon), a buoyant amalgam of flaming Pippi Longstocking pigtails, endless freckles and unstoppable optimism.

Candice is a learning nerd, the kind of pint-sized intellectual who asks incredibly complex questions (the teacher is Miriam Margolyes with a disarmingly weird rotating CG eyeball) just as the end-of-session bell rings. She rapturously soaks up the detailed answer  oblivious to the stinkeyes directed at her by groaning classmates, who just want to leave.

Lisa Hoppe’s screenplay attempts to balance (not always gracefully) the essential innocence of Candice’s world view with the grim realities of her life.

Her mother Claire (Emma Booth) is a recluse who never recovered from the death several years before of Candice’s infant sister. Dad Jim (Richard Roxburgh) is a computer repairman and basement inventor embittered by a falling out with his brother. That would be Rich Uncle Brian (Joel Jackson), who made millions off an unspecified creation originally developed with his sibling.

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Ashleigh Cummings

“HOUNDS OF LOVE”  My rating:  

108 minutes | No MPAA rating

The temptation is to dismiss “H0unds of Love” as seedy exploitation, a bit of torture porn.

Except that Ben Young’s debut feature won’t allow us that easy way out. It is too well made — and especially too well acted — for us to simply turn our backs on its unpleasantness.

Loosely inspired by David and Catherine Birnie, a real life couple in Perth, Australia, who in the ’80s abducted and killed four young women, this creepy nail biter pits a surprisingly resilient teenage girl against a pair of serial killers.

John and Evelyn White (a spectacularly good Stephen Curry and Emma Booth) live in a nondescript suburb of Perth.  They’re not particularly popular with their neighbors, who would be horrified to learn what goes on in their utterly ordinary-seeming house.

The two snatch and imprison young women.  These victims are terrorized and abused and finally killed by John, who buries the bodies in a nearby forest.

Their latest prize, Vickie (Ashleigh Cummings), is a high schooler embittered over the recent divorce of her parents and acting out by sneaking away at night to party with her friends.  She’s walking to one of these shindigs late at night when the Whites pull up in their car and offer her a lift and a joint.

As writer and director Young doesn’t dwell on the brutality inflicted on Vickie.  The really awful stuff happens behind closed doors, out of sight (if not out of hearing).

What makes “Hounds…” so compelling is the psychological lay of the land.

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