A Sydney suburb is home to lives of quiet desperation in Oz director-writer Christopher Weekes’ debut feature “Bitter & Twisted.” Shot on a shoestring, this great-looking item attests to the visual talents of the helmer and his mostly tyro team. However, despite game perfs from a well-known cast, weak scripting and sketchy character development leave too many holes to ultimately convince or compel. Auds feel the characters’ pain, but it’s difficult to care. Pic’s likely to find most fans in ancillary.
After three years trapped in a self-destructive spiral following the unexpected death of a loved one, the Lombard family (Noni Hazelhurst as menopausal mother, Steve Rodgers as obese car salesman father, helmer Weekes as possibly gay son) and neighbor Indigo (Leanna Walsman), make tentative moves toward breaking free. Creative surmounting of budgetary restrictions makes the pic’s first third the strongest as the short, beautifully designed scenes, many wordless, establish the isolated characters. Remaining two-thirds bog down in dialogue-heavy, extended exposition. Idiosyncratic color choices, brilliant production design and quirkily fatalistic framing of shots recall Jane Campion’s debut. Although it’s no “Sweetie,” “Bitter & Twisted” nonetheless reps a notable calling card.