Monday, May 20, 2013

a theology of temptations: Goddess film review

Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 80 plus films later, here is the review for April, of Australian film (Goddess).

Goddess
A film review by Steve Taylor

Goddess is fun.

Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly) is a young mother, raising an energetic child in the farmlands of rural Tasmania. Her husband James (Ronan Keating) is a marine scientist, absent for long periods chasing whales in the Southern Ocean.

Recently moved from London, their downunder dream of the rural idyll is eroded by his increasing absence and the growing isolation of raising children in a foreign land.

Elspeth turns to the internet, having a webcam installed, setting up a website, entering key words in search engines. She uploads her songs, original and quirky, that showcase her domestic realities. Her ditties of raising kids and washing dishes go viral. This attracts the interest of media magnate Cassandra Wolfe (Magda Szubanski), who flies Elspeth to Sydney to be the face of “Goddess,” a laptop – “for all the women you are.”

Directed by Mark Lamprell (Babe: Pig in the City) this Australian film is shot with an international eye. There can be little other explanation for the inclusion of global sing star, Ronan Keating. He acts, passably, yet strangely does not sing until the popcorn is well and truly eaten (the 75th minute to be precise).

Part musical, part comedy, part romance, Goddess seeks to emulate the success last year (reviewed in the October 2012 edition of Touchstone) of Australian musical comedy The Sapphires. While scenes of rural Tasmania are sure to turn international viewers green with envy, at times the movie tries to hard. The use of whale song and melting ice cream to embody shifting human relationships are more banal than funny.

Like Les Miserables (reviewed in the March 2013 edition of Touchstone) Goddess is adapted for the screen from a musical, Sinksongs. Unlike Les Miserables, the songs in Goddess are interspersed between enough dialogue, surrounded by enough comedy, to provide a surprisingly enjoyable movie experience.

In many ways Goddess functions as a contemporary temptation of Christ. Watching with two teenage daughters, the movie offered a thought provoking exploration of growing up female. These include the tensions around raising children, having a career and responding to the relentless sexualised commodification of the female body.

Under the media glare, Elspeth sifts a range of modern challenges. Not the temple, but the splendor of international fame. Not angels, but the persistent attention of the male gaze. Not bread for the body, but the sexualisation essential to modern media.

The film turns the humour of potty training into a serious exploration of being human, being family, being female. The scene in which Elspeth is told that she is simply another in a long line of pretty girls waiting to be discovered (exploited?) is a reminder of the disposability inherent in contemporary culture.

Goddess provides no easy answers, simply a feel good finale, in which faithfulness trumps fame.

Posted by steve at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

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