Leon Zat investigates the death of Dr. Valerie Somers, a woman his wife was speaking to about their marriage; soon four marriages, including his own, become entangled in a web of deceit, death and sex all relating to his i... more »nvestigation.
"In this starkly realistic examination of love and infidelity among the thirtysomething crowd from down under we learn that you may desire to cheat on your spouse, but it's better if you don't.Leon Zat, a police detective played with an original and striking demeanor by Anthony LaPaglia, cheats on his wife and finds that his adultery compromises not only his marriage but his performance on the job. He becomes irritable and flies off the handle at things of little importance, and becomes consumed with guilt.He is not alone. The marriage of John Knox (Geoffrey Rush) and psychiatrist Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey) is falling apart as Knox seeks something from the outside and Somers is torn apart with the suspicion that he is having a homosexual affair, perhaps with one of her clients. Meanwhile Jane O'May (Zat's adulteress played by Rachael Blake) finds that she needs a man, or maybe two, other than her estranged husband. Even Sonja Zat (Kerry Armstrong) feels the pressure and yearns to feel attractive, perhaps with younger men.More than halfway through we have an apparent murder and an investigation during the course of which some of the adulteries come to light and cause the participants to examine themselves and their lives closely.Andrew Dovell wrote the subtle, richly attired script, full of penetrating dialogue and an uncompromising veracity, adapting it from his play Speaking in Tongues. Ray Lawrence directed in an unusual but compelling manner in which the scenes are sharply focused and cut to linger in our minds. Again and again I was startled with just how exactly right was something a character said or did. Lawrence's exacting attention to detail gives the film a textured and deeply layered feel so that one has the sense of real life fully lived. The cast is uniformly excellent although LaPaglia stands out because of his most demanding role. His performance is one of the best I have seen in recent years. The only weakness in the film is a somewhat lethargic start, partially caused by Lawrence's cinéma vérité scene construction and editing. What he likes to do is lead us to a realization along with the characters and then punctuate the experience by lingering on the scene, or in other cases by cutting quickly away. Often what other directors might show, he leaves to our imagination, and at other times he shows something seemingly trivial which nonetheless stays in our mind. John Knox's affair, for example, is not shown. Jane O'May and her husband's reconciliation is left to our mind's eye. Yet the scene with Valerie Somers in the lighted telephone booth (with graffiti) is shown at length and then what happens next is not. These are interesting directorial choices.The ending comes upon us, as it sometimes should, unexpectedly, but then resonates so that we can see and feel the resolution. Not everything is tied up. Again we are left in some cases to use our own imagination.This original film, one of the best of the new millennium I have seen, stayed with me long after they ran the closing credits. It is well worth the two hours."
Subtle, Affecting Drama
Reviewer | 07/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the defining characteristics of the human condition is the inevitability of change, both physically and emotionally. Though most would deny it, one is not the same person at forty years of age that they were at twenty; the emotional growth one undergoes over a period of time dictates that it cannot be so. Unlike the changes one experiences during puberty and adolescence, however, that emotional growth is unceasing. It may be said, in fact, that "change" within that context is the only real constant in life; and the effects of this perpetual state of flux on any particular individual is determined by that individual's experiences and derived from a personal frame of reference. And the challenge of coping with the changes in our own lives forms a common thread that binds us together as a species, and it is those challenges and the ways in which we respond to them that forms the basis for director Ray Lawrence's affecting drama, "Lantana," in which he explores the disparate ways that individuals, dissimilar and yet the same, strive to deal with this thing we call "Life."Police officer Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) is at a crossroads in his life. In the parlance of Pink Floyd, he has grown numb, though not "comfortably." He has a wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) and two children, and though he loves Sonja, this "numbness" that has left him devoid of feeling has driven him to an affair with Jane O'May (Rachael Blake), who has recently separated from her husband, Pete (Glenn Robbins). Unlike Leon, however, Jane admittedly no longer loves her husband, and has no intention of taking him back. Sonja, meanwhile, affected by the emotional distance Leon has put between them, is seeing a therapist, Dr. Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey), who is currently coping with the emotional estrangement of her own husband, John (Geoffrey Rush), a chasm born of personal circumstances which neither seems capable of bridging. The only happy couple in town, apparently, is Jane's neighbors, Nik and Paula Daniels (Vince Colosimo, Daniella Farinacci). But as Nik is out of work, that, too may soon change.Different people, from different walks of life, each in their own way undergoing that change that is so inevitable. But when one of those involved in the drama suddenly disappears one night, and another is subsequently implicated, it precipitates the intersection of the lives of all four couples, in a way that will ultimately effect a drastic change for some, and resolution for the others.Utilizing his remarkable ensemble cast to great effect, director Lawrence achieves success with this film through a studied and sensitive presentation of the material contained in the insightful screenplay by Andrew Bovell, which he adapted from his own play, "Speaking In Tongues." Very gradually, Lawrence carefully establishes the characters and their particular situations with an objective eye that refuses to allow a rush to judgment with regards to any and all of those involved here, even as he takes the drama to the heights of emotional involvement. There is a natural rhythm and flow to his presentation, with an emphasis on the human aspects of the story, that enables the audience to make that vital connection with the characters as their story unfolds. Lawrence succinctly peals away that protective outer shell of his characters and digs deep, exposing and laying bare their innermost thoughts and desires, ultimately achieving the result of giving everyone in the audience someone or something with which to identify and relate. He puts it all on a very personal level; and it's a demonstration of filmmaking at it's best.Lawrence also exacts some extraordinary performances from his actors, beginning with LaPaglia, who does some of the best work of his career with his portrayal of Leon. LaPaglia explores Leon from the inside out, and most importantly, manages to convey his findings to his audience. While some actors in similar situations have a tendency to remain ambiguous, LaPaglia makes Leon's growth and development entirely discernible. Unexpectedly, in fact, it is Leon in whom the emotional pinnacle of the film is realized, attained through a memorable performance by LaPaglia.Extremely effective, as well, is Geoffrey Rush, who turns in a performance that is so subtle it fairly crackles with understated emotion. Some of the most affecting moments of the film, in fact, are those in which John and Valerie strive to reconnect and put their marriage aright. And Hershey is terrific, too, with her portrayal of this woman who is so fragile and vulnerable beneath her requisite mask of professional strength and authority.It is in Sonja, however, that we see most clearly the inner turmoil that, in the final analysis, is shared by all of the characters in the film, albeit in accordance with their own, individual situations. But as portrayed by Kerry Armstrong, we get, especially, that sense of the common challenge of coping with the changes life throws at us seemingly at random. It's a notable performance, entirely convincing, and it adds greatly to the overall credibility of the film.Also noteworthy are the performances of Colosimo, Blake, and especially Farinacci, whose winning portrayal makes Paula the most empathetic of all the characters in the film. The supporting cast includes Russell Dykstra (Michael), Peter Phelps (Patrick), Leah Purcell (Claudia), Nicholas Cooper (Sam) and Marc Dyer (Dylan). A film that works as entertainment, but even more by way of enlightenment, "Lantana" is engrossing, engaging cinema that will make you think and reflect about the changes you've encountered and will encounter in your own life; an inspired film that reaches out and touches the humanity that resides within all of us, that mirror being held up that affords us a good look at ourselves and allows us to decide whether or not we like what we see. And if we don't, perhaps this film will become the catalyst that makes us do something about it. And that's the magic of the movies."
C O N N E C T I O N S
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 12/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The year 2001 will go down in film history thus far at least, as the watershed Year of the Adult Thriller and "Lantana" is the latest example of this sub-genre. Others this year would be "Burnt Money," "In the Bedroom," "Dinner Rush," and "L.I.E." to name several.
All the Adult Thrillers have one or more of the following in common: a crime (usually a murder), several plot lines, mis-connection among the various characters, though they may be connected by marriage or birth and literate scripts involving adult material.
"Lantana's" central character, Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) is a police detective conflicted about his impending middle age, his marriage and his recent affair ("2 night stand") with Jane (Rachael Blake) who has just broken up with her husband. Leon's wife,Sonja (Kerry Armstrong)knows something is wrong and is seeing a psychiatrist, Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey) who turns up missing one day and sets the movie in motion.
Along the way we witness some of the finest, most profound dialogue and ensemble acting of this year. As in "In the Bedroom," the pathos comes from character not situation: the actor interpreting, ingesting really the core of the character and using the script as a jumping off point; improvising, in a way, his reactions based on the "facts" of the storyline.
Anthony LaPaglia is a genuine revelation here. In his work thus far where/how was he hiding this amazing depth of talent? His Leon Zat is a macho, confused, rabidly sexual, violent yet tender and loving man who finds himself at a crossroads in his middle life: he loves his wife and family, he loves his work but he's thinking of chucking it all to do...what? It's never really resolved and this is all to the good of his character and of the film in general. Nothing in this film is tied up with a ribbon and resolved...for sure or for good.
The women in Leon's life, Kerry Armstrong and Rachael Blake turn in strong, nuanced performances with Blake making the stronger impression I think, because of the showier role. Blake's Jane calls to mind women of 1950's melodrama's like Rosalind Russell in "Picnic" : prim and proper, together women out in public; but behind closed doors: heartsick, needy, always with a drink in their hands. Good women, just flawed like the rest of us.
Ray Lawrence's "Lantana" is a wise, beautifully acted and well-observed film that demonstrates, once again that it's the connections in life that matter; and that we are always looking for the right one."
Top Notch Film !!!
BeachReader | Delaware | 06/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought this award-winning Australian movie was incredibly well-done and I am still mulling it over days after seeing it. Every character was fully developed and every performance by this stellar group of actors was outstanding. The confluence of the lives of the various characters was natural and did not seem at all contrived....the movie really was about their interactions and relationships, an examination of deep issues, not a murder mystery as some might think prior to seeing it. Much of the film appeared to try to mislead us as characters who never might have met each other became intimately acquainted. Leon is married to Sonja but sleeping with Jane who lives next door to Nik and Paul. Sonja is seeing a psychiatrist whose disappearance Leon investigates.Suspicion abounds in "Lantana," as it does in real life. Intimacy and its accompanying trust is scarce, except for Nik and Paula. Most of the characters demonstrate that once happiness is no longer part of a relationship, people move through their lives on auto-pilot, their lives routine and predictable. Much is hidden beneath the surface here - "lantana" is a tangled nuisance shrub in Australia, with hidden thorns masked by beautiful flowers....much as the unpleasant parts of life can be hidden by what is on the surface.I liked what James Berardinelli said about this movie: " Being alive and living are not the same......What constitutes happiness - is it the presence of pleasure of the absence of pain? What is the strongest foundation for a lasting marriage - trust, love, familiarity, or grief?"When I read the reviews, I was afraid "Lantana" was going to be confusing but it wasn't at all. The characters were so well introduced and developed that it was easy to follow the story right from the beginning. I really appreciated the short wrap-up at the end, showing us what all the characters were doing after the main part of the story ended.This is the best movie I have seen all year!"
Satisfying and Somber
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not sure how much play this Australian movie received in the U.S., but whatever it was it deserved more. In a great opening shot, it starts with the implication that there has been a murder, but it moves steadily into a study of people, basically four couples, and how they come together in ways that are deeply emotional and questioning. Anthony LaPaglia plays Leon Zat, a Sydney detective who is trying to find out who the body is and what happened. He's married, burned out, unhappy, with a lot of stuff ready to explode. He's having a joyless affair with a woman, but he loves his wife and kids. His wife sees the marriage falling apart and doesn't know what to do about it. She's been seeing a psychiatrist, but this woman has problems of her own...a daughter who was murdered and a husband who has become frozen emotionally.
I know, it sounds like some weekday soap. Believe me, it isn't. The actors are uniformily superb. Besides LaPaglia, there's Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hersey, and a number of Australian actors who should be better known in the U.S. If you only know LaPaglia from cop and gangster roles, TV crime shows and as the thick-headed hood/nephew in The Client, you're in for a revelation. As good as LaPaglia is, Rush matches him in a performance that is subtle, ambiguous and sad.
It's a somber movie. I recommend it highly. The DVD transfer is very good"