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Heavenly Creatures

by Yoda
posted on 6/07/07
Well, got around to seeing this last night.

The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on Heavenly Creatures is how incredibly difficult it was to watch the climactic murder. It's been quite awhile since I've wanted to turn away from the screen this badly, and never before during a film that you wouldn't find in the "Horror" section. There it was, I thought: this girl is about to end a life, and ruin two others, all for some silly, irrational fantasy. How can two girls so intelligent and precocious also be so naive and foolish?

Anyway, I'm sure everyone agrees the film is very disturbing. The issue, it would seem, is whether or not Heavenly Creatures makes any apologies for the murder. And on that point, I'm torn.

On one hand, it does seem to qualify their actions a bit, implying that a pervasive societal homophobia may have had something to do with it all.

On the other hand, long before their "friendship" has progressed to anywhere near the point of genuine intimacy, the movie shows that their perspectives are already rather skewed. When Pauline/Yvette's father lip-synchs Mario with a fish in place of a microphone, I cracked a smile. Her father is being playful and irreverent. Pauline, however, flips out on him. She holds disdain for him, even though he is only exhibiting the same sort of qualities she admires so much in Juliet.

Whether Jackson intended for us to feel sympathy or not, I didn't feel much. What sympathy I did feel was mostly for Pauline's family, which, despite a bit of misguidedness, clearly loves her and tries to do what they think is best for her.

One of the supreme ironies of the film, of course, is that while the parents are mistaken about just why their friendship is "unwholesome," they are ultimately right, given what transpires. Two already-disturbed girls latch onto one another and, through a series of events and a bit of latent intolerance, somehow talk themselves into believing a murder will solve all of their problems.

One thing I like very much was the decision to end the film so abruptly. It's appropriate that, after an entire film of fantasy roleplaying and then daydreaming about how their lives would improve after the murder, reality comes crashing down on them in one horrible moment, when they (presumably) realize how foolish they've been. Everything about the death is the polar opposite of the way they envisioned it: it's not a dramatic, instantaneous beheading. It is slow, horrific, and brutal. Worst of all, it takes long enough that Pauline's mother Honora would have had time to realize what was happening, and wonder why.

It's hard for me to judge the film as a whole, because I don't know Jackson's intent. If Jackson meant to portray the girls in a sympathetic light, I think he failed. But if he meant simply to inject a bit of nuance into a seemingly black-and-white situation, and cause us to lament that such bright young girls could go so wrong, then he succeeded admirably.

For the record, Juliet stated last year that the two of them were not, in fact, lesbians, which I think is a bit of a blow to the film's credibility. Either way, clearly each of these girls had an emotional void in their lives, and each came to believe that they could only be fulfilled by the other. I wish the film had done more (assuming it would have been possible to do so accurately) to speculate as to what must have been missing from each of these girls to cause them to do what they did.

I'm not going to give this film a rating, because I really don't know what it's aim was, and I found it a bit too disturbing to judge objectively in some respects. Suffice to say, having now seen it, I can see both why Bobby is so disgusted with it, and why some other MoFos admire it.