Thievish Thursdays: Suburban Mayhem (2006)

Our first Thievish Thursday takes a brief look at the irreparable effects of crime over the family unit, in celebration of the new ABC1 series The Straits.

If it weren’t glaringly obvious from the poster art shown to the left, Paul Goodman‘s Suburban Mayhem is a wild ride in the depths of murky and sinister suburbia. Designed by the brilliant Jeremy Saunders, the poster is emblematic of the garish nature of instant celebrity, especially within a criminal context.

Starring Emily Barclay as Katrina Skinner, a 19 year old unwed mother, who plots to have her father killed. Using her sex appeal, Katrina manipulates men into doing whatever she wants. She is brazen, dangerous, motivated, trashy and deadly. Crime becomes Katrina’s drug of choice and propels her into a world where fame, be it of small town level or national, is intoxicating. Katrina does anything to get her way, a trait very familiar with unconscionable psychopaths.

Making her feature film debut, screenwriter Alice Bell brings a colourful seediness to the screen with Katrina Skinner. Shot as part documentary, Bell’s screenplay wonderfully contradicts itself. In the documentary section, Katrina appears to be one thing and then we find out the truth as revealed, outside of the documentary format.

Paul Goodman shoots Katrina’s world with hazy graininess when in documentary form, and in bold tones when in reality. Bold is the best way to sum up Katrina’s world. She is a ballsy character without reproach, and the film highlights the lengths to which she’ll reach to get her way.

The cast is nothing short of great fun, with Emily Barclay leading the pack with astute force and as a result appropriately dominates the screen whenever she appears. Fine supporting performances back Barclay up with Genevieve Lemon, Anthony Hayes, Susan Prior, Robert Morgan and the feature film debut from Mia Wasikowska.

Featuring in the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, the film was an instant hit, being snapped up in the US by the Weinstein Company. Locally, the film was a critical success and received 12 AFI nominations, winning 3 for Best Actress (Emily Barclay), Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Hayes) and Best Original Score (Mick Harvey). Sadly, Bell’s screenplay lost out to Rolf de Heer‘s Ten Canoes.

Suburban Mayhem opened theatrically in Australia on October 26 2006,  through IconFilms. This review also features as part of the Favourite Australian Film Assignment.

4 blergs

More from James Madden

Film Review: Holding the Man (2015)

In 1970s Melbourne Timothy Conigrave (Ryan Corr) sees John Caleo (Craig Stott)...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.