Only parts of 'Storm' brilliant

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:39 PM ET

Some would say any film that puts Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling and Geoffrey Rush under the same roof is a keeper. That said, it's hard to love The Eye of the Storm, but parts of the film are so brilliant that you're better off seeing it than not.

Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) has decided to die. Her son, Sir Basil Hunter, explains in a voice-over that 'being of a certain class' allows his mother to die when she pleases, and she pleases.

Home to say farewell and hope against hope that Mummy is leaving them her money are Elizabeth's children: the ineffectual Sir Basil and his angry sister Dorothy (Judy Davis). Not to be outdone by her brother, Dorothy also has a title. She is known -- thanks to a marriage that seems to have been engineered to please Mummy -- as Princess de Lascabanes. She is divorced and she has no money, but still ... people call her princess.

As the matriarch of this dysfunctional little clan, Elizabeth is a monster.

Imperious and cruel, she controls her children financially and emotionally, and always with a smile upon her beautiful face. Basil goes off to find other actor friends and drink heavily just to put off seeing his mother for 24 hours.

Dorothy, withdrawn and jealous, is horrified to see that her mother is giving away pieces of jewelry and other personal possessions to the servants. Both adult children are greedy, telegraphing their emotionally needy state; Sir Basil loves food a bit too much, and he is ridiculously vain about all the undeserved attention he gets from women. The nurses attending to his mother flirt with him shamelessly. One nurse (the luminous Alexandra Schepisi) even determines to insert herself into the family by attempting to have Sir Basil's child. Hard not to read her character as a semi-comic representation of Australia itself.

The Eye of the Storm slowly works its way toward a revelation of Mummy's single-minded path through life. Some of her cruelties and indiscretions are told in flashback; some as snippets of disjointed memory. Elizabeth's mind is beginning to go, and so she inadvertently reveals some of her own betrayals.

No man is off limits as far as Elizabeth is concerned, it turns out. Even the admirable family financial advisor, Arnold Wyburd (John Gaden) proves to be flawed when it comes to her.

The film is blackly funny, incisive and often moving, and the performances are spectacular. The film is also over-long and overwhelmed by too many extraneous subplots. There are housekeepers and country house staff and a lot of other people and events that are more distracting than anything else. It's unwieldy.

Never mind. The chance to see this cast, which includes (attention Aussies!) Robyn Nevin, Bille Brown and Helen Morse over two hours is worth the price of admission. Or close enough.

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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