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- Published on Amazon.com
Sweetie (Jane Campion, 1989)/Passionless Moments (Jane Campion, 1983)
Sweetie is the type of comedy I would write if I wrote comedies-- relentlessly black, full of subversive moments, and deeply, deeply twisted. Barrel of monkeys? I scoff at your fun!
Kay (Karen Colston) is rather mousy, introverted, and not terribly happy in her relationship with Louis (Tom Lycos), whom she lands after consulting a fortune-teller. Not the best start to a relationship, one would think (and one would be right). Still, Kay and Louis are content, in their own miserable way, until Sweetie shows up. Sweetie (Genevieve Lemon) is Kay's younger sister, and she's well, I believe the technical term is "crazy as a loon". No one but Kay, however, seems capable of seeing this; her parents just see her as slightly eccentric, though still their darling baby daughter. Louis is oddly entranced by her. Gordon (Jon Darling), her manager/boyfriend, is convinced she'll be the one to finally net him some success, and he's not put off by the fringe benefits of managing her, most of which he reaps between the sheets. Loudly. As Sweetie slips farther and farther round the bend, though, the rest of the family does come to see that, perhaps, there might be something wrong; unfortunately, no one's equipped to deal with this new perception, and anything that can go wrong, etc.
I should probably insert some sort of warning about triggering conversations/behaviors, but that's kind of the point of the movie, isn't it? This is supposed to push your buttons (in much the same way that Very Bad Things did a few years later). And it does a very good job of it; the movie was castigated and/or damned with faint praise when it appeared, though it has since been recognized as a classic in the making given some of Campion's later output (e.g., The Piano). Campion, who both wrote and directed, is a twisted genius with a camera here; all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. And I highly recommend you do so.
I wouldn't normally review a thirteen-minute film, but Passionless Moments, which can be found in Sweetie's DVD extras, is on Jonathan Rosenbaum's list of the thousand best films ever made, so I should probably give it a paragraph. A short made by Campion in 1983, Passionless Moments takes a number of disparate scenes and puts them together. Each of them is oddly familiar, things you've done or wondered about yourself, but presented from odd angles, or with weird cuts; it's as if Roald Dahl got inside your skull and started writing Tales of the Unexpected straight out of your subconscious. It's absolutely worth your time, and is worth the cost of buying the Sweetie DVD by itself. **** (for both).