There have been some remarkable portray als of matriarchs in recent cinema: Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom; Melissa Leo in The Fighter; Kim Hye-ja in Mother. Into this notable company must be introduced the character of Elizabeth Hunter, portrayed with voracious power by Charlotte Rampling in Fred Schepisi s newest film, The Eye of the Storm.
Working from Patrick White s inter nationally acclaimed novel, Schepisi and screenwriter Judy Morris distill the story s emotional and psychological essence. With its genteel veneer masking explosive latent emotions, the film hits the viewer like a vel vet hand grenade.
Elizabeth rich, beautiful, wilful and spoiled has spent her life controlling and manipulating everyone around her. Her husband long-dead and her adult chil dren long-fled, she lies in an oft-medicated haze, drifting toward death. Her son Basil (Geoffrey Rush) left home when he was young to become an actor in London s West End, but recent events have provided him with the time and inclination to return to Australia and his mother s bedside. His sis ter Dorothy (Judy Davis) took off to marry a French prince, but their eventual divorce has left her with nothing but a dusty title, a few Chanel suits and the compulsion to speak French whenever least appropriate.
Basil and Dorothy both need reconcili ation and money. Elizabeth is unwilling to provide either, and in her enduring hun ger for drama, she pits the household staff against her children in the struggle for her favour and estate. As the prodigal son come home, someone whose ego seems in constant need of preening, Basil looks for attention and company wherever, and however, it s offered. Dorothy reluctantly acknowledges that she has some scores to settle with her mother, and their tumultuous backstory is revealed in a series of climactic flashbacks.
The Eye of the Storm is cinematic cham ber music: complex and rich, it is filled with wisdom about what truly happens when a parent dies. In the case of Basil a