Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Manu Bennett, Daniela Fariacci, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Dykstra, Leah Purcell
Rated R for Language and Sexuality
Apparently teenagers aren't the only ones filled with romantic angst, as the "Twilight" movies would have you believe. The grown ups are just as screwed up too, but strange as it is to say, the results are even less interesting to watch. Not only are they mopey and self-absorbed, they're two-dimensional at best and totally lifeless. Seldom outside of a Wes Anderson movie have I seen a cast of movie characters so in need of Red Bull.
"Lantana" is about nearly a dozen characters brought together by relationships and coincidence. Leon (LaPaglia) is a cop in Australia who feels numb to life. He's having an affair with Jane (Blake), a woman from his dance class. His wife Sonja (Armstrong) tells her psychiatrist Valerie (Hershey) that she suspects an affair, but doesn't have the courage to bring it up, much less leave Leon. Valerie has grown distant from her husband John (Rush) after their daughter was murdered 18 months ago. And the lovesick Jane has her eye on Steve (Bennett), her hunky (and married) neighbor next door.
If director Ray Lawrence was attempting to shed some light on the human condition and the amount of work marriage takes (especially after years of repetition, he's failed. "Lantana" doesn't provide anything we haven't seen before in other, better films. Not only is its message obvious, but it's explored through characters we can't stand. If you identify with any of these characters, you should probably seek immediate psychiatric help (preferably from one that isn't as screwed up as Valerie). To be fair to the director, ensemble movies are notoriously difficult to get right; the list of failures far outweighs the successes. But that doesn't change the fact that the end result is little more than a sleep aid.
At least it has some good performances, despite the director's best attempts to muzzle them. You'd be hard-pressed to find a movie where Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush didn't do a good job (even in bad movies). But they're given so little to work with that there's nothing they can do. The dialogue is so banal and the plot is so dull that I'm wondering what attracted them to the script in the first place.
Admittedly, the film gets a dose of energy when it turns into a murder investigation, although not by much. The tone is still downbeat, everyone is in desperate need of coffee, and it isn't significantly more interesting or engaging. Just with a quicker pulse. And it ends with (nearly) all of the little subplots tied up happily.