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Film Review: ‘Goddess’

A clever concept becomes an amiable endurance test over the perky course of “Goddess,” a just-this-side-of-too-cheerful Aussie tuner. Though the pic did so-so biz during recent domestic release, the tale of a lonely yet spunky housewife and mother who makes something of herself through song is solidly in the mold of “Enchanted” and “Mamma Mia!,” and so could spark internationally with receptive auds.

In rural Tasmania, Elspeth Dickens (legit phenom Laura-Michelle Kelly) spends her days wrangling mischievous 3-year-old twins Zack and Fred (Levi and Phoenix Morrison) while awaiting the unpredictable visits from her man, James (pop heartthrob Ronan Keating). They’ve agreed she’ll put her singing career on hold until the moppets start school, at which point he’ll shelve the whale-saving crusade that keeps him at sea for long periods of time.

After one conjugal visit, James leaves Elspeth with a webcam, which she mounts in the kitchen via what appears to be the longest USB cable in existence. Singing at first to no one, she creates a series of cheery sketches that quickly go viral and attract the attention of Sydney-based corporate shark Cassandra Wolfe (Magda Szubanski), who’s on the lookout for someone to shill a laptop pitched to women.

The bulk of the film finds Elspeth balancing the responsibilities of family and the lure of fame, breaking regularly into song whether the news be good or bad. The problem is one of overambition, as numerous subplots subvert the momentum of the screenplay, adapted from Joanna Weinberg’s one-woman stage show “Sink Songs” by Weinberg and helmer Mark Lamprell (an industry vet who directed a docu on the making of “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” and wrote “Babe: Pig in the City”). Trimming one or two could have ensured the pic didn’t overstay its welcome, especially given the promise of its witty opening scene and some choice one-liners.

Kelly’s bubbly demeanor is nevertheless infectious, and Szubanski makes the most of her vampy numbers. Oddly for a singer of his renown, Keating isn’t given a solo until well into proceedings but proves a quietly charismatic leading man. Damian E. Wyvil’s widescreen lensing shows off numerous Sydney landmarks to their best advantage, while crisp musical production was handled in part by longtime industry vet Phil Ramone.

Goddess
(Australia)

Reviewed at Events Cinemas George Street, Sydney, March 15, 2013. Running time: 104 MIN.

A Roadshow Films release of a Screen Australia presentation, in association with Screen NSW, Screen Tasmania, of a Film Company, Wildheart Films, Jessamine, Mezeron Prods. production. (International sales: Ealing Metro Intl., London.) Produced by Richard Keddie, Andrena Finlay. Executive producers, Al Clark, James M. Vernon, Joel Pearlman, Seph McKenna, Steve Dunn, Simon Buckingham, Annie Crawford, Robert Albert, Gabrielle Briger, Toni Cody. Co-producer, Ella Keddie.

Directed by Mark Lamprell. Screenplay, Lamprell, Joanna Weinberg, from the stage show “Sinksongs” written and performed by Weinberg. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Damian E. Wyvil; editor, Mark Warner; music, Bryony Marks, Weinberg; production designer, Annie Beauchamp; art director, Charlie Revai; set decorator, Nicki Gardiner; costume designer, Shareen Beringer; sound (Dolby Digital), David Lee; supervising sound editors, John Dennison, Tony Vaccher; re-recording mixers, Vaccher, Dennison; visual effects supervisor, Phil Stuart-Jones; assistant director, John Martin; second unit director, Richard Keddie; choreography, Kelley Abbey; line producer, Lorelle Adamson; casting, Ann Robinson, Mullinars Casting.

Cast: Laura-Michelle Kelly, Ronan Keating, Magda Szubanski, Levi Morrison, Phoenix Morrison, Dustin Clare, Lucy Durack, Tamsin Carroll, Natalie Tran, Pia Miranda, Corinne Grant, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Cameron Lyon, Celia Ireland, Claire Chihambakwe.

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