Tag Archives: Judy Davis

Heatwave (1982)

heatwave 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fighting to save homes.

Stephen (Richard Moir) is an English architect employed by Robert (Bill Hunter) to construct a massive high-rise building in downtown Sydney that will be financed by Peter (Chris Haywood). However, the construction will require the demolition of several row houses and the eviction of those living in them. Kate (Judy Davis) takes up the cause by protesting the development and along with Mary Ford (Carole Skinner) are able to get a temporary block on the building project by getting the local builder’s union to instill a green ban. Stephen tries to fight this by attending the group’s meetings and airing out his side of the issue, but in the process finds himself more and more sympathetic to the residence especially when he finds out that Peter isn’t a completely honorable businessman and has no plans to use Stephen’s building design at all. When Mary mysteriously disappears he joins forces with Kate to try and find her only to unearth even more troubling and dark revelations along the way.

This film is based on a true-life incident and one of two movies made about it with the other one being The Killing of Angel Street, which will be reviewed here next month. The real-life event centers on Juanita Nielsen (1937-1975) who took up the anti-development cause when it was found that her home was pegged to be demolished in order to make way for three high-rise buildings in the Victoria Street neighborhood of Sydney. Her efforts managed to delay the project for three years, but the developer eventually became impatient and hired men to harass the residents who were trying to stop it and in the process kidnapped Nielsen even though her body has never been found and no one has ever been convicted of her murder.

The film here depicts Nielsen through the fictional character of Mary Ford, but what surprised me was that Ford is not the central person. Instead we only see her briefly at the beginning before she disappears and is generally forgotten while writer/director Phillip Noyce adds other fictional characters and story lines around her, which wasn’t as interesting as the actual case and I’m not sure why they didn’t just stick with the facts.

However, this still a highly intriguing thoroughly riveting plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the beginning. Part of what I liked about it is the way it shows things from the different perspective of the various characters while bringing out the myriad of complexities where nothing is black-and-white and no one is completely right or completely wrong. The viewer gets torn about whose side to be on, but fascinated with each new rapid-fire twist that comes about.

There are definite shades of L’Avventura here where a main character disappears and is essentially forgotten until it seems almost like she had never existed in the first place. The script offers no easy answers and instead shows in vivid and almost brutal detail how taxing and frustrating fighting for social change can be and the hopelessness one feels when they realize that all of their efforts may have made little or no difference.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: March 8, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Phillip Noyce

Studio: Roadshow Film Distributors

Available: VHS, DVD (PAL, Region 0)

The Ref (1994)

The ref

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Not in holiday spirit.

Gus (Denis Leary) is a burglar who takes a bickering couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hostage and soon learns to regret it especially when the rest of the family comes over for a Christmas celebration and he is thrust into the middle of all of their squabbling.

The film starts off with a real bang as it takes a lot of satirical pot shots at marriage counseling, people who dress up like Santa, family parties, suburbia, bickering couples, and of course the holiday season itself. Christine Baranski is top-rate as the sarcastic mother and it is unfortunate she wasn’t given more screen time. Even her kids are funny. Glynis Johns is also excellent as Spacey’s mother. She takes command of her scenes even when star Dennis Leary can’t. For her age she looks fantastic and it is nice to see an older actress playing a character that isn’t just used as a throwaway device for senile jokes and aging.

However, star Leary can’t seem to act, at least not here. He shot to fame with his dark and edgy stand- up routines, but here falls into a character that is much too watered down and benign. This was supposed to be his vehicle, but in the end it seems like his character wasn’t even necessary. Baranski’s character is far more funny and memorable even though she has much less screen time.

Spacey and Davis don’t click as a couple. They share no chemistry and their bickering seems strained and contrived. The film also falls too far away from its original premise. Having a two-bit crook dealing with a bickering couple at first seems like a funny concept, but then the story starts to delve much too deeply into their personal problems until it becomes like a family drama that isn’t at all amusing or entertaining.

The film has a few funny bits, but not enough to sustain it the whole way. Leary is very weak in the lead and this thing completely loses steam by the end.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 9, 1994

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ted Demme

Studio: Touchstone Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video