Friday July 25, 1997
Welcome to Australia, land of the damaged, where claiming victimhood is the goal and there are no rules, just expectations. No heroes here, just schemers--in life, business, love and family.
"Brilliant Lies," the oddly quiet film by Richard Franklin of Australian David Williamson's play about the quest for power, is an anti-summer movie. No special effects, no aliens, no action of any kind, just talk and more talk.
The production has the modest, made-for-TV feel of a play with a soundtrack. But it takes more than moving the dialogue from a stage to an office or a gym or a golf course to open up a play and make it hold your attention.
At first glance, Williamson and Franklin seem to be developing a thoughtful, emotional confrontation between employer Gary Fitzgerald (Anthony La Paglia) and his assistant, Susy Connor (Gia Carides), who was fired after an incident that may have been the basest sexual harassment: do this or lose your job. There is hatred far beyond the bounds of modern management manuals. She wants $40,000. Despite the publicity of a trial, he refuses to submit to blackmail and settle.
But early on, the focus shifts from the office to the Connor family, reducing Fitzgerald's activities to a subplot. Susy and her sister Katy (Zoe Carides) seem to be on opposite ends of the sexual spectrum--Susy is a party girl who sees men as her rightful meal ticket, and Katy is a sometime architect and angry lesbian (which in this case means speaking in cliches about male oppressors) who falls for the mediator in her sister's harassment hearing.
The movie seems to be saying their lives are different reactions to the same act. As adolescents, they were groped by their father, a thoroughly awful lout named Brian (Ray Barrett). Brian, true to form, sees himself as the victim in the family--his business fortune now gone, he's alone and in need of heart surgery that could be paid for by Susy's settlement, if she were a good daughter.
La Paglia charges hard and rarely comes up for air. Gia Carides struggles to find a dimension to Susy beyond tart and manipulator. Barrett plays the father with a whine and a whimper.
Not that you would want to know these sad characters any better, but "Brilliant Lies" suffers from not knowing where to put the audience. We're kept at a distance in our theater seats while the conversation continues on the screen.
Brilliant Lies, 1997. Unrated. A film by Richard Franklin, released by Castle Hill Productions. Director Richard Franklin. Producers Richard Franklin, Sue Farrelly. Screenplay by Peter Fitzpatrick, Richard Franklin, based on David Williamson's play. Cinematographer Geoff Burton. Editor David Pulbrook. Costumes Roger Kirk. Production design Tracy Watt. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. Gia Carides as Susy Connor. Anthony La Paglia as Gary Fitzgerald. Zoe Carides as Katy Connor. Ray Barrett as Brian Connor.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times