THE EYE OF THE STORM (2011)
Running Time: 119 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Fred Schepisi
Language: English, French w/English subtitles
Distributor: Sycamore Entertainment
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis, Alexandra Schepisi, Maria Theodorakis, John Gaden, Jamie Timony, Helen Morse, Bob Marcs, Robyn Nevin, Colin Friels, Jane Menelaus, Bille Brown
Clashes over potential inheritances, featuring sons and daughters who hover over rich, dying parents, can be the basis of soap opera or the foundation of Shakespearean drama. THE EYE OF THE STORM, which is in part a tale of two vultures traveling thousands of miles to cajole their dying mother to grant them the bulk of an estate, is a filmed version of Patrick White’s novel, the only work of fiction to have received a Nobel Prize for literature. I can’t say what the Nobel committee was thinking at the time of the award, but from the movie, a less-than-successful attempt to find cinematic qualities from the book, we witness Fred Schepisi’s sprawling account of a dysfunctional family of a domineering woman without a central focus. Characters fall in and fall out during the year 1972 in a suburb of Sydney, Australia with flashbacks to the dying woman’s headier time twenty years earlier when she enjoyed the attentions of a German lover to the apparent dismay of her daughter.
THE EYE OF THE STORM does feature a terrific cast of some superb Australian-born actors, specifically Geoffrey Rush, who had known better times not far back when cast as the king’s speech tutor, Lionel Logue, in Tom Hopper’s THE KING’S SPEECH, and Judy Davis who had a small but more accessible role as Phyllis, the wife of Woody Allen’s character Jerry, in Allen’s TO ROME WITH LOVE. One bit of cognitive dissonance that might strike the audience is that the great Charlotte Rampling, who is sixty-six in real life, performs as the mother of Geoffrey Rush, who is sixty-two. Having a child at age eight just might result in family dysfunction.
Australian-born director Fred Schepisi, whose SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION is a more accessible tale of a black man who intrudes on a New York family, claiming to be someone he is not, opens THE EYE OF THE STORM with a flashback to Sydney in 1952 as Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) walks about a beach bleeding from the head, which leads her son, Basil Hunter (Geoffrey Rush), a celebrated London actor, to announce the story’s prize quote in a voice-over that people of her mother’s class have the right to choose their own time of death. He joins his sister Dorothy (Judy Davis), a woman with the title of princess from her unhappy marriage to a French nobleman, to the mother’s bedside. There the son and daughter find their mother surrounded by servants, including Flora (Alexandra Schepisi, the director’s daughter), who will engage in an affair with Basil Hunter only to be rebuffed because of her social class.
Of the cast, the best scenes go to Geoffrey Rush whose character, Basil, is celebrated like a rock star, giving autographs and bedding pliable women, including her mother’s nurse. Judy Morris’s script allows characters to come and go into scenes helter-skelter as though the scripter is determined to squeeze as many of the novel’s minutiae into the film as they are present in the over six-hundred page book.
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