Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

04 April 2008

Murder in the Outback: The Joanne Lees Story, dir. Tony Tilse (2007)

STEVE says:
At best Murder in the Outback is a scrapbook, taking the major facts of the case and arranging them in an order that approximates the actual events. At worst, it's an under-written Movie of the Week with top-notch actors playing one-dimensional characters in a 95-minute story that deserved at least that again in order to tell it properly.

Like a scrapbook, all we get here are blurry snapshots that bare further scrutiny or beg explanation. The hair-tie: when he was apprehended, Bradley John Murdoch had Joanne Lees hair-tie on his person. Much is made of this at first; it seems like solid evidence - if not of Peter Falconio's murder, then at least of Joanne's abduction by Murdoch - but we find later, in a throw-away statement by Bryan Brown's Rex Wild (who really needs his own show, by the way) - that it was ruled inadmissible by the court. Why? We never find out. It's never mentioned again. And while it all makes sense when presented in context, much of the detail seems like it's from some kind of checklist - Hair-tie, got it. Secret emails to an ex-lover, that's in there. Joanne's 'Cheeky Monkey' t-shirt, ditto.

I think the movie's biggest flaw, though, is in showing the actual abduction because it gives us the advantage of knowing what's true and what's not when Joanne's story is eventually called into question. While this is handy as far as making us feel Joanne's frustration as the trial descends into a media circus - literally, as Joanne has to "escape" from a pair of handcuffs in court to show how she did it on the night - it's also preposterous because it's a truth drawn from details that are sketchy at best.


NIKKI says:
The opening here was exceptional. It was well-directed, incredibly suspenseful, and really took us deep into the soul of this case. It happened quickly, it was punishingly tense, and if you blinked for a split second, you lost all sense of where you were and how you got there.

In minutes, Joanne Lees' central predicament is highlighted. She experienced these torturesome moments, and how could she possibly know every detail of every quick second that passed? It's no wonder her statements were confused. And it's no wonder she acted as coldly as she did to the Australian media, and to an extent, the population at large, who chose to forget the sorry way they treated Lindy Chamberlain so many years ago. Here's this woman going trhoguh this horrible thing, and all we can do is cast suspicion without knowing the facts.

Joanne Lees was similarly tried by the people before she ever went to court, and that is just one element of the story this film tries to portray. How Lees was fooled by the media and betrayed by the Australian public who denigrated the stupid no-nothing backpackers who apparently deserve what they get for their lack of knowledge about the treacherous Aussie terrain. Or something close to that.

But the problem with this film was that it tried to outline this and so much more about the Falconio case in 90 minutes. It was never going to work. There are great moments -- Joanne Froggatt is really quite something as Lees, for instance, and there was that opening -- but much of it descends into TV-movie stuff and we become bored with the same old points being raised, and so much left out that was pertinent to the case.

It was certainly watchable, and is a good introduction to this case. That's really about it, though.


No comments: