With so much of Muriel’s Wedding’s dialogue now part of Australian vernacular- “you’re terrible Muriel”- there were high hopes for Mental, the latest collaboration between Toni Collette and writer director P.J. Hogan, but unfortunately the result is a… “you’re terrible everyone-who-had-anything-to-do-with-this-awful-film”. There surely must have been an element of Collette supporting the film as a favour to the man who brought her into international recognition, considering there’s surely no way she wanted to get involved purely off the script. It is bereft of subtly, tact, cohesion and worst of all comedy.
Remember how Muriel was obsessed with Abba and weddings? This time run Shirley Moochmore (Rebecca Gibney) is obsessed with The Sound of Music and the idea of the perfect von Trap family. She begins the film dancing about her yard singing the titular song, in the first of three lazily included “Sound of Music” numbers, and her swarm of feral children get introduced as they all react to the sight. Between her tiresome kids, bitchy neighbours (Kerry Fox) and abusive husband Barry (Anthony Lapaglia), it isn’t long before Shirley snaps and is sent to a mental hospital. Naturally Barry picks up a stranger on the street to take care of the kids in the interim. Stranger turns out to be Shaz, played with all the gusto she can manage by Toni Collette, whose own madness might just make her the right fit to understand the lunacy.
Shifting from drama to comedy, even to thriller at one bizarre point, the film is as mental as the characters. There is not a single likable character amongst them, and they’re never consistent enough to develop an opinion on them anyway. Jokes range from farting onto a lighter, to girls having their period on a white couch and the film makes fun of lesbians for almost the entire runtime only to feature a couple at the end as though to make up for it. There’s also about 100 different subplots that go around in circles to only add to the anarchy.
In the end the only tangible conclusion to take from the film is how truly awful it is. It’s not just a case of being poorly made, but being so misguided that it will simultaneously frustrate, disgust and bore audiences everywhere. When the best part of a film is Rebecca Gibney, you know something’s wrong. Unless audiences are craving for unoriginal toilet humour, they shouldn’t bother giving their time or money to a complete waste of celluloid that doesn’t even deserve to be screened on toiler paper.
Mental is released in Australia on October 4th
Director: P.J. Hogan
Cast: Toni Collette, Anthony Lapaglia, Kerry Fox, Rebbeca Gibney, Deborah Mailman, Liev Schreiber