Goddess (Movie review)

Will I, won’t I, will I, won’t I, has been running around my head over the last week since I saw the recent Australian movie Goddess. In the end I’ve decided, obviously, that I will – will, that is, write a post on it because I do like to raise a little awareness about Australia’s film industry.

Cradle Mountain

Beautiful Tasmania

Whether you like Goddess depends a bit, I think, on your expectations. If you expect a fun romcom you are likely to enjoy it. If, however, you expect a sociological analysis of celebrity culture in the 21st century, as I half-expected based on the line or two advance summary that I’d read, you may not like it. Fortunately for me, my expectations changed to the “right” ones in the opening scene. The film opens with an homage to the film version of The Sound of Music with our heroine standing, arms spread wide, on a high green hill surrounded by mountains in gorgeous Tasmania and ready, we think, to burst into song. She appears to think so too, except she suddenly spies her toddler twins, halfway down the hill, about to chomp into a cowpat  … all thoughts of singing immediately fly out of her head and the film’s tone is established!

Goddess is both romcom and musical comedy. It was adapted from a stage play titled Sinksongs which was written and performed by Joanna Weinberg. The plot concerns a young couple – Elspeth and James – who have moved to Tasmania with their twin toddler sons so that James can follow his dream of protecting and researching whales. The couple have a deal. James will follow his dream until the boys start school, and then he will take over prime childcare while Elspeth has a go at her career which is singing. The trouble is that Elspeth finds life in rural Tasmania with demanding (albeit cute) toddlers and a mostly absent husband a harder “deal” than she’d expected. She receives no support from the local mums (played by comedian Corinne Grant, Pia Miranda, and two others) who do not welcome her into their group. To assuage Elspeth’s loneliness, James buys her a webcam suggesting they can stay in contact that way. Unfortunately, probably due to poor reception out there in the southern Pacific (!), Elspeth can’t raise James but, she suddenly realises, she can put the webcam to another use. She can sing her life to a cybercrowd – and so begin her “sinksongs” performed, yep, from the kitchen sink. The inevitable happens of course. She becomes famous around the world. We see people everywhere tuning in to watch her sing, including, eventually, the local mums. I won’t detail the plot further as you can probably guess its course … one requiring her, in the end, to work out her fame-family priorities.

What makes this movie delightful is not the predictable plot (it is, after all, what it is) but the performances and the music, which ranges from pop to jazz to blues to country to tango. It’s all there as Elspeth is one talented young singing mum. Elspeth is played by someone unknown to me, the English actress Laura Michelle Kelly. She is, not surprisingly, more active in theatre than film. It’s a cliched thing to say, I know, but she lit up the screen with her expressive face, her warmth and her singing-dancing ability. She managed to hit just the right note between vamp and mum, between confidence and uncertainty. James is played sympathetically by Irish pop idol Ronan Keating. Australian comedian Magda Szubanski was entertaining as the “Corporate bitch” Cassandra, while relative newcomer Hugo Johnstone-Burt, from the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries television series, convinced as her nervously keen but ultimately sensitive right-hand man.

The plot was a little forced in places and there was the odd slapstick moment that made me cringe. There were also picture-perfect shots of Sydney  – the Bridge and the Opera House – that worked, I suppose, for immigrant Elspeth’s visit to the big smoke but that also seemed rather carefully placed to attract foreign audiences. These, though, were minor aberrations in a movie that saw us leaving the cinema smiling.

I seem to have been writing about romance more than usual lately, which is a bit weird as it’s not really my zone of interest, but I’m not sorry. A little break from the usual never does you any harm does it? If you’d like a change from your usual fare and Goddess comes to a theatre near you, give it a go. It may not be the best movie you see this year, but its joie de vivre is infectious.

Dir. Mark Lamprell
Prod. The Film Company and Wildheart Films, 2013

17 thoughts on “Goddess (Movie review)

  1. Pingback: 23 March 2013: finishing “The Living Goddesses” | Gratitude every day

  2. This does sound entertaining – especially for all the kitchen sink singers out there! (We have one in our house who has huge designs and, well, hardly goes near the kitchen sink!)

  3. “… seemed rather carefully placed to attract foreign audiences.”

    True, always a weird moment in a film or TV show when they chuck in an obvious, obvious shot of the Opera House, or Uluru, or a wombat, and you suspect that the film’s focus or gaze has shifted away from the Australian viewer so that it can stare over your shoulder at an imaginary American, or European, or something else, hovering like a phantom behind the actual, real and present you. It’s like having a conversation with someone who suddenly pulls out their phone and starts texting. (Sirens did it, but it did it so bluntly that I think the director was making fun of it. O LOOK LOOK IT IS A WALLABUMBLE.)

    • That’s how it felt to me … Though it fit well enough because the character is I think seeing Sydney for the first time. But it felt a little obvious just the same … Could have been my radar. I don’t recollect it in Sirens but given the subject I can understand that there could have been humour behind it.

      • Have you seen anything else? I heard there was a cricket movie that more or less went kaput at the box office.

        (I haven’t watched Sirens for ages, but I’m sure I remember them cutting away every now and then to a full-body shot of an echidna, for example, whiffling around in the underbrush.)

        • No, I don’t think I’ve seen another Aussie one for a while. I mostly write them up when I do though not 100%. A cricket one rings a bell but we didn’t see it as I can’t even recollect its name! There was a miniseries about the creation of World Series cricket on TV last year. It was interesting from an historical point of view but not particularly riveting viewing.

  4. I saw the shorts for this recently, and thought that it looked like fun, but more like a movie that I’d watch on dvd, or maybe on the tele. I don’t get to the movies all that often and like to save it for films that need that big screen.

  5. After reading your other reviews, I thought I’d see if you’d reviewed Mark Lamprell’s book: “The Full Ridiculous” and found this review. Mark Lamprell is a family friend so I had a personal interest in both the book and the film.
    I really loved Goddess. Not because of the romcom thing but through being a writer at home with young children and my son, I can assure you, could’ve been cast as one of those twins. I think for many mums there is that tension between being with their children and pursuing their own interests and being themselves.I’m not just talking about going to work here but feeding your soul, your identity within all the madness. I could have been her.
    I did a writing workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year. As a Director and script writer, he wrote his “novel” with that same 4 act structure and that’s what the workshop covered and referred to the work of Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey. I found it very helpful.
    I enjoyed Mark’s book but for me the end was didn’t quite seem real. The happy ending I felt was reached too suddenly and didn’t seem realistic.
    Have you read it? xx Rowena

    • No I haven’t Rowena. Only saw the film. It was fun and clever, and yes, as one who did my time as I working mother I completely understand about the tensions. My work did feed my should and my identity, as did my reading. Carving out time for that and not feeling guilty too was a challenge. Don’t you think that a lot of “romcom” books and films aren’t realistic? No matter how meaningful the issues they confront along the way, in the end they are intended to be feel good and we have to suspend our disbelief? It must have been great attending that writing workshop.

      • Lamprell’s book wasn’t a romcom and was based on a real life experience where he was hit by a car while jogging. As I knew him to some extent personally and the book was set in Turramurra near where I grew up, I did read this book in the same way as “The Rosie Project” where it all seems real. I think that’s why I struggled with the ending. Yes, it was a bit romcom but the book was quite serious and the two didn’t quite fit together. That said, I really did love the book and the characterisation was good. These were people I knew without being stereotypes.
        The workshop was great. I’ve attended quite a few at the SWF. That includes Andy Griffith and Jackie French. I even dragged my 6 year old son to a sleepover at the Powerhouse Museum so I could meet Morris Gleitzman. It was a real hoot. All these experiences were very affordable too.

        • Book endings are tricky. EM Forster in his Aspects of the novel says why can’t we just finish when we want to finish. I always think of that when I’m thinking of novel endings.

          BTW, I spent my teen years in Wahroonga, and still have an aunt living in Turramurra.

          I took my kids once to an author talk by Paul Jennings, and my daughter to one by John Marsden. Last year she went to a memoir writing workshop run by Ben Law. She loved it.

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