Suburban Mayhem

 
Directed by: Paul Goldman
Written by:Alice Bell
Starring: Emily Barclay, Michael Dorman, Robert Morgan, Anthony Hayes, Laurence Breuls, Steve Bastoni
Released: October 26, 2006
Grade: B+

Katrina Skinner (Barclay) is the kind of girl I hate.  She must always be the centre of attention, she has to have everything she wants, and she can be very, very manipulative.  The 19-year- old has a daughter but she seldom takes care of her.  It’s all too inconvenient for this “little princess” and so her father (Morgan) and boyfriend (Dornan) bear most of the parenting responsibilities.  Worst of all, Katrina wants money from everyone.  She expects a continual hand-out from her father to fund her swanky lifestyle.

As much as I hate her, she’s not someone you want to make an enemy of.  Her over-protective older brother, Danny (Bruels), is in prison for killing a shop attendant.  That in itself says enough about her family but the reason makes it all the more chilling – the attendant (rightfully) called Katrina a whore.

She’s a terribly dislikeable character but Emily Barclay’s performance is something to behold.  Katrina really got under my skin.  I just wanted to get up and slap her in the face (but I wouldn’t of course because that's assault).  This is a complement to Barclay and it’s no surprise to see her nominated alongside Laura Linney, Abbie Cornish and Teresa Palmer in the best actress category at this year’s AFI Awards.

The film enters a more sinister chapter when Katrina plots to kill her father.  She intends to use the inheritance to help get her brother out of jail.  With her domineering influence over others, it shouldn’t be a problem getting her friends to help out.

Director Paul Goldman has made two previous Aussie flicks – Australian Rules and The Night We Called It A DaySuburban Mayhem is his most interesting flick to date.  Others agree given that it was selected to screen at both the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals.

If found the storyline a little hard to believe at times but from what I understand, it is based on truth.  28-year-old writer Alice Bell was inspired after attending a series of murder trials.  The accused were often “cold-blooded and callous” and she couldn’t believe it given the circumstances they were in.  So she took the traits and facts from a range of trials and came up with the script.

Last week, Suburban Mayhem was nominated for 12 AFI Awards, the most of any movie this year.  Strangely though, the film was overlooked in the best picture category (which is voted upon by all AFI members as opposed to industry specialists).  I’m tired of saying it but this is yet another great film in what has been a top year for Australian cinema.  May the good times continue.