Thursday 8 September 2016

Film Review: Girl Asleep

Having taken the independent film festival circuit by storm both back home and overseas, Rosemary Myers' Girl Asleep sets fire to Australian cinema screens today.

What do you get when you take Napoleon Dynamite and mix it with Where the Wild Things Are? Sprinkle in some Puberty Blues and Alice in Wonderland for good measure and hand the potent concoction to Wes Anderson. The answer is Girl Asleep, an effervescent and emotional journey into the absurd, scary and beautiful mind of an adolescent Australian teen.

The film focuses on Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore), a 14-year-old girl who has just moved house and started attending a totally bang average, everyday Aussie high school. She's a bit of a loner and her only friend is the equally gawky Elliott (Harrison Feldman). Intimidated by a trio of stuck-up popular girls, Greta's life is about to get even more stressful when her parents (Amber McMahon and Matthew Whittet) decide to throw her a birthday bash and invite all her new classmates.

Girl Asleep is a great big, swirling success of Australian cinema. It melds so many competing inspirations and motifs into the one pot that sometimes it feels too scatterbrained to work, and yet, strung through the middle of this 70's suburban chaos is a strange, stirring soul that is as heartwarming and uplifting as it is bizarre.

The performances are all great in their own way, but particular props go to Whitmore and Feldman for their hilarious mishmash of bewilderment, hormones, awkwardness and friendship.

Myers' mixture of unconventional and inventive framing, blocking and camera movement recalls the aforementioned Wes Anderson; a 4:3 aspect ratio and lateral tracking shots certainly don't shy away from the comparison, but it suits the material and every shot or creative choice is used in fun and unique ways. Whether it's an entire dinner conversation viewed from the rim of a lazy Susan or the wacky third act that sees Greta's wild imagination allow for all sorts of gorgeous costume design, everything about Girl Asleep is about crafting a colourful cinematic experience that audiences will struggle to forget.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

It won't be for everyone but open-minded cinemagoers will find a lot to enjoy in this wildly creative Aussie feature that took home the grand prize at CinefestOz last month. The inspirations are there for all to see, but Myers is able to transcend these to create something unique and distinct. Kooky doesn't even begin to cover it.

Girl Asleep is in cinemas across Australia now

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