In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6svpck54r9k0mz9xcfzswrxcin

Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

Thumb_oax1ohn3ltgrf3vlh5ff28w0yjn

Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Kangaroo

  |  

"Kangaroo" achieves the neat task of making D.H. Lawrence boring.

The movie is based on the autobiographical novel by Lawrence, the passionate British novelist who visited Australia briefly with his German wife, Frieda, before moving on to New Mexico and the tempestuous events recorded in the 1981 film "Priest of Love." In that film, he was dying of tuberculosis, and yet had more energy and a livelier libido that we'd ever suspect on the basis of "Kangaroo." The movie begins with an unnecessary prologue in which Lawrence (or "Richard Somers") and his wife are called upon by the British authorities. In real life Frieda Lawrence was the sister of Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, and in the movie her fictional counterpoint is suspected of spying for the Germans. Shortly afterward, Lawrence is drafted and forced to submit to an Army physical exam. And although his tuberculosis spared him a likely death in the trenches, these events apparently are supposed to explain their state of mind when they arrive in Australia - a new land where such atrocities do not take place.

The young couple moves into a quiet neighborhood, which turns out not to be quiet at all. The neighbors, Jack and Vicki, are not above suggesting a bit of wife-swapping. And, through Jack, the novelist meets "Kangaroo," the leader of a secret fascist movement. Kangaroo is clearly in love with the Englishman, and tries to seduce him into the movement, but Lawrence maintains a strict neutrality. He is an observer, an outsider.

The movie proceeds at a snail's pace. There are long stretches when it's hard to see why anyone thought the story was worth telling.

The performances by Colin Friels as Lawrence and Judy Davis as Frieda are flat and lifeless. Kangaroo is the most interesting character, and that's because of what we guess about him, not what we see. There is an undigested subplot about the Australian labor movement in the 1920s, some heartfelt scenes of the novelist writing late into the night and then the story ends.

What's amazing is that the filmmakers didn't crank up some more drama - even if it meant creating it out of whole cloth. Lawrence is the source for several great passionate films, including "Sons and Lovers" and "Women in Love" (not to mention the Sylvia Kristel version of "Lady Chatterley's Lover"). If "Kangaroo" was no more interesting than this to the filmmakers, why bother with it?

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

10 Underrated Female Performances of 2014

Ten underrated female performances from 2014 worthy of Oscar consideration.

More on That Later: The Truth About “Serial”

Some thoughts on the hit podcast "Serial".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus