Mairi Cameron’s feature debut is a pretentious psychodrama with a strong cast struggling to sex it up and a sneaking suspicion that we’re all being infuriatingly misled.
Produced by Screen Queensland, the streaming service Stan and others, and with a script by Stephen Lance, this has some good location work at Jimbour House (three hours west of Brisbane) but otherwise grates, as so many movies about writers tend to.
There are no names here (which adds to the feeling that it’s all an elaborate con-job) as The Writer (Rachael Blake) travels to her family’s country house for a raunchy working weekend with her boyfriend The Publisher (Vince Colosimo). The Writer has recently hit the big-time with an erotic thriller that might (or might not) feature autobiographical trimmings. There’s lots of chat about her late rellies, bits of her troubled past and her current lack of artistic inspiration, as well as the apparent possibility of Wolf Creek-esque hi-jinx when a weird local (Martin Sacks) blocks the road with his jeep. But no such luck, however, and although Sacks seems to be playing someone important to the story he just sits there glowering, as if waiting for direction.
The Writer then announces that The Muse (Susie Porter) is soon to arrive, much to The Publisher’s annoyance, although he does brighten up a bit when Porter starts strutting about, mixing cocktails, playing Animotion’s ‘80s hit Obsession and heavily hinting that she’d like a threesome.
But what’s really going on here? Who is this Muse and what is her relationship with The Writer, and why do we keep getting fantasy and/or flashback glimpses of the past, all more than a little reminiscent of similar devices used in TV’s Big Little Lies (and more recently Sharp Objects)? And why do we feel that when the big reveals and rug-pulls take effect we’re going to be left groaning?
Despite the low budget, Cameron assembled quite the cast here (including Susan Prior as The Detective) and yet they’re mainly a dreary lot, with Blake too one-note and remote, Colosimo noticeably uneasy and only Porter bringing a little saucy spark to the ponderous proceedings.
Are we being duped? Is there some titillating trickery going on here, and will there be a mighty plot twist into the final act? Well, use your imagination.
Rated MA. The Second is in limited release at Wallis Mitcham and Mt Barker cinemas from September 6-19.