Film, Comedy
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Yes, that’s ‘mental’ as in the nasty and offensive term to describe someone with mental health problems. Now, no one is going to mistake Aussie director P J Hogan for a bigot – the big-hearted message of his comedy is about marching to your own beat, however irregular. But someone should have persuaded him to ditch that tasteless title. Wrong is wrong. And ‘Mental’ gets it wrong in too many ways. Shame, because somewhere here are the ingredients for a kooky crowd-pleaser like ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, the 1994 film that launched Hogan’s career and first got actress Toni Collette noticed.

Collette is back as Shaz, who descends on the Moochmore household just as mum Shirley is carted off to a psychiatric unit. Shaz, a hippie with a knife stashed in her boot and a dog called Ripper, is hardly Mary Poppins, but she takes charge of the family’s five troubled teenage daughters. They’re known locally as a bunch of weirdos, but – what do you know – a little self-esteem and they shine up like new pennies.

The biggest laughs, and there’s a healthy helping of them, are sharp digs at the narrow-minded misogynist corners of suburban Australia. The girls’ dad, a sleazy mayor played by Anthony LaPaglia, curses his brood of girls. ‘Boys have mental health problems too’, one of them answers back. ‘Not Australian boys. They’re too busy playing football.’ All good stuff, but the comedy goes off the leash, tipping into wacky fever-pitch farce. As for the story, like an unguided missile, it’s all over the place. Collette, the trooper, does her best, but one scene involving period blood on a white sofa is one of the most crashingly unfunny you’ll see in a while.

By: Cath Clarke


Release details

Release date: Friday November 16 2012
Duration: 0 mins

Cast and crew

Director: PJ Hogan
Screenwriter: PJ Hogan
Cast: Liev Schreiber
Toni Collette
Anthony LaPaglia
Kerry Fox

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:0
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  • 1 star:0
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Not sure why time out rates 2 stars while other worthless movies are rated higher. This is a great movie, it does not take itself (or anything else) too seriously, its fun, silly, and a little out of order. It's about people's esteem and dreams - and 'sharks'. With 1 or 2 twists in the story and sometimes..singing. The comedy is so much more enjoyable than what is usually churned out. Worth seeing.

A poignant and funny film set in the hyper reality of an Australian east coast town. Mental sees PJ Hogan and Toni Collette joining forces once again, and leveraging off Collette’s experiences (and exposure) in the Emmy Award winning “United States of Tara�, they take us on a funny, sad, dark, ridiculous....nay Mental trip with the Moochmore family and their hitchhiker/hippy/nanny Shaz. Mum Shirley Moochmore (Rebecca Gibney) is “on holidays in Wollongong�, her five daughters are competing to be the most ‘mental’, her husband Barry (Anthony LaPaglia) is too busy with the local council election to be present, and Shirley’s sister obsessing over competition dolls, it is pretty clear there needs to be someone around to help out. Enter Shaz (Toni Collette) – all the way from Tassie. Shaz is a bong smoking, knife wielding hitch hiker whose dog makes her look ‘trustworthy’. Enlisted to look after the five girls, Shaz does her best to whip them into shape, delivering life lessons (and minimum hygiene standards) into a scene of chaos. Her tough love approach and demeanour hides her own demons and her motivations may not be as pure as we think, but Shaz is a winner. The film is manic, swapping from tear jerker moments, to high hilarity, all delivered amongst colour saturated highly stylised scenery. Collette plays her role to a t, ably assisted by her support cast. It is not all fun and games – and it is hard to explain what the film is actually about. But as a warped mirror to society - in particular the small town variety, this film delivers. Abashedly Australian, stereotypical and possibly at times cringeworthy, it is nonetheless a very entertaining film. It’s weird, its crazy, its Mental.