Home' LOTL : Oct 12 Contents PJ Hogan says he grew up in a “family of
ratbags” so it’s not surprising then to
discover that his latest movie, Mental
has more than a little semblance of truth
to it. Indeed to hear PJ tell it, Mental is a
fairly accurate account of his early childhood
complete with knife-toting babysitter,
mental mum and minor politician dad.
Just swap the five girls of the movie’s
plotline to boys and a girl and it could
be a snapshot of Hogan’s twelfth year of
life. While the film’s character of Shirley
Moochmore had a fairly public break with
reality, serenading the Hill’s Hoist with tunes
from The Sound of Music and buying out
the town’s furniture and electrical stores
pretending that her husband had
won Wheel of Fortune, Hogan’s
mum’s slide into mental illness
was a little more insidious.
“ We woke up one morning and
my mum was gone – she’d had a
nervous breakdown,” says Hogan
“and my father who was a rather formidable
character, told us she’d gone for a holiday -
he was running for council at the time and
that was his cover story.” Much like the tale
Anthony LaPaglia’s character of smalltown
mayorBarryMoochmore spins forhis children
– ‘Your mother’s on holiday in Wollongong’.
Stuck with five children to look after
Hogan’s father picked up a hitchhiker –
who he said “looked trustworthy ‘cause
she had a dog” – to be their nanny.
Just like in the film, PJ returned
home to discover “the real-life Shaz”
ensconced on his lounge complete with
“hunting knife, and ‘herbal cigarette’”.
It’s a memory that stayed with him.
And while he may have taken some
departures to ensure he not only tugged
at the heartstrings but tweaked the
funny bone of his audience as well, to
create the film version of Shaz, Hogan
maintains he wouldn’t be the person he
is today without having met her. “I think
everyone needs a champion” says Hogan.
That is the role that both the real and
fictitious Shaz play. It’s a theme that
runs strongly through all of Hogan’s
films. He’s someone that always roots
for “the outsider” and it’s a role that also
resonates for his leading actress, Toni
Collette, whose career he launched all
those years ago with Muriel’s Wedding.
Comments Collette: “I was saying to PJ I
kind ofgravitate towards the theme of ‘nothing
is normal’, there’s no such thing as normal and
this film certainly has that and more. I think
my character Shaz is completely outrageous.
I get to say some of the best lines ever”.
Certainly the film is chockfull of black
humour alongside elements of pathos and
there’s no doubt that the politically correct
in the audience will be in for a shock with
some of the language and antics on screen.
“ There are a lot of politically incorrect
moments. I set out to be politically
incorrect,” explains PJ. “I live in the trenches
with crazy – my sister is schizophrenic,
my brother is bipolar and I’m father to
two autistic children – and I’m sick of
the way they’re treated. A lot of it is ‘cause
people don’t understand – so they don’t talk
about.And I want people to talk about it.
“ We’re not a country or culture that
welcomes oversharing –and I feel if you
don’t talk about it, it just gets stronger – so
with this movie I wanted to be as wild and
funny as I could be and push the envelope.”
Collette agrees: “I have to say, having read
the script several times and loved it, the film
still surprises me.... It’s better than I even
expected, it’s funnier, it’s more profound. I
think it’s much darker and it has a sadness
to it, which I think brings out the comedy
more because of the balance.”
For Collette, Shaz is the
successor to a long line of
outsiders that started with Muriel
and graduated to the multiple
personality disordered Tara from
the Showtime hit TV series.
“Shaz is someone who’s taken so much shit
in her life that if she sees someone else being
fed the same amount of crap she’ll step in
and, and stand up for them. She has her own
agenda which starts to come out in the course
of the story. But I think she sees that this
family of five girls and their mother they’ve
got the most diminished sense of self and
self-esteem and she can’t believe it. She shows
them what she thinks life is and shows them
that there’s a different option, a different way
of living and one that includes a little bit
of self respect and maybe some happiness.”
Mental is now playing at cinemas.
22 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
Arts | Film
I live in the trenches with crazy. My sister
is schizophrenic, my brother is bipolar...”
Director PJ Hogan reunites with Toni Collette
for the first time since Muriel’s Wedding
to deliver another twisted comedy set in
Australia’s suburban heartland.
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