GODDESS: Roadshow Films. Starring: Laura Michelle Kelly, Ronan Keating, and Magda Szubanski. Directed by Mark Lamprell. Rated PG (Mild sexual references and coarse language). 104 min.
This is an Australian comedy-musical that is based on a stage play, “Sink Songs”, written by Joanna Weinberg. The film is co-written by the author of the stage play, and the director of the movie. The stage play was a one-woman show, performed by Weinberg.
Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly) struggles with balancing career and motherhood when her husband, James (Ronan Keating), goes away regularly to do whatever he can to protect the whale species. While James is at sea recording the sounds of whales, he leaves Elspeth behind in a country farmhouse with two badly behaved young children, who are wearing her down. One won’t take his angel’s wings off, and the other won’t defecate.
Lonely, stressed, and unable to cope, she takes James’ advice and installs a webcam in her kitchen to see him while he is away, but he is never there. She wiles away the time by dancing, singing and dressing-up in front the camera. The roles she steps into and out of create a fantasy world for her that she enjoys. Streamed into U-Tube and Face-book, a whole lot of people start enjoying her routines, and she quickly becomes a media sensation for her catchy sink-songs. Her burgeoning popularity “for being a Goddess for all the women you are” establishes her as media-gold. The chance of instant fame is offered to her by a forceful, determined media business executive, Cassandra Wolfe (Magda Szubanski), who realises what a find Elspeth really is, and knows how her own reputation would be enhanced by bringing Elspeth on board.
While Elspeth is in the city pursuing fame, James returns from whale-watching to his family, and performs unknowingly for the webcam. Adding to the film’s gentle satire of reality and celebrity television shows (“there is one in all of us”, as the tag-line for the film tells us), Keating does his version of “Master Chef au naturel”, with just a chef’s apron on while cooking himself a meal, much to the delight of his anonymous audience.
This film has its moments of crudity, but the musical routines are well-choreographed and performed, and sharp comedy comes from the rapier verbal thrusts of Cassandra. Szubanski, who plays her role by shedding the comic awkwardness that has established her as one of Australia’s top comediennes. In this film, she interprets her character dramatically, and delivers her lines with uncharacteristic dramatic intensity.
Laura Kelly plays Elspeth with gusto. She has a 2005 British Olivier Award behind her for Best Actress in the stage musical, “Mary Poppins”, and her formidable talents shine in this movie as she delivers a bravura performance. Keating’s attractive singing voice and dance routines with Kelly establish him as a good musical choice to partner her.
The movie is entertaining fare, but fluctuates a little disappointingly between media satire about marketing someone into a person they’re not, and showing the recovery of a couple trying to re-kindle their romance after forced fame. Interestingly, it shows Szubanski in a role, which gives her a very different comedy persona, than she usually has, and she delivers an excellent musical dance number.
The film is a feel-good movie that is enjoyable. It was well positioned to make critical comment about the manipulations by the media of human behaviour and emotions. It doesn’t really do that. Instead, it decides more simply to entertain. Its fantasy-musical routines are well worth watching, though, and especially so, when the exuberant Laura Michelle Kelly is on the screen.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out March 14, 2013.