It's All Fiction Folks
Last night I went to the world premiere of the latest, and much-awaited, Australian movie Animal Kingdom and I want to start out by telling you what it is not.It is not Underbelly. It is not the definitive story of the Walsh Street executions of two young policemen. It is not the life story of that drug-dealing murderous psychopath Dennis Allen who terrorised Melbourne in the 1970s and 1980s. And it is not the story of his equally evil mother Kath Pettingill and her twisted violent family.
And it is certainly not a film that glamourises crime. Far from it.
It does take from all those sources and that climate of corrupt cops and drug-taking, drug-dealing, armed robbers and the savage revenge killings of two young policemen.
But Animal Kingdom, written and directed by David Michot, is fiction. The animal kingdom he writes about and the pecking order and the survival of the fittest is played out by a psychotic family. And what makes this film even more chilling is how Michot wraps it all in such mundane and ordinary surroundings. Like family barbecues and supermarkets and ‘don’t forget to buy milk’. Amidst the mayhem there’s brotherly love with the family held together by Australia’s Ma Barker played by Jacki Weaver.
She is part of a 24-carat cast of testosterone-fuelled males. Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce and an amazing debut by a young actor named James Frecheville.
I don’t have to excuse my bias about Jacki Weaver. She’s my ex-wife and I love her but this performance is chilling by its subtlety – if that’s possible. She could be convincingly baking scones while slipping cyanide into the flour mix. It is a mesmerising, award-winning performance.
Animal Kingdom is one of those films that has you transfixed and exhausted at the end of it.
I can see why it won the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Just do me one favour when you see it: Remember, it is fiction. But the real events of that era show it could happen. Families like that could exist. Because they did. Right here in Melbourne.
Footnote: In 2011 Jacki Weaver was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Later that year she went on to make movies with Robert de Niro, Brad Cooper, Emily Blunt and Nicole Kidman.