Jake Dennis is an internationally published poet, a jazz, swing, and blues crooner, and a freelance journalist. Visit his website: www.poetofjazz.com and follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/poetofjazz
Published April 1st 2017
Psychological thriller set in WA
Filmed in Western Australia, director-writer Fin Edquist's psychological thriller Bad Girl explores a vexatious adopted teenager's strained relationship with her new family and her burgeoning homoerotic relationship with her neighbour Chloe played mesmerisingly by the Samara Weaving. Despite the story's dull start with dialogue as cringe-worthy as "I dunno. I guess I'm just bad" from the movie's protagonist Amy, played by a dirtied up loveable Sara West, Bad Girl eventually establishes enough tension and suspense to make it a worthwhile late night watch.
Edquist's twisted script and superlative direction of female leads, along with Perth cinematographer Gavin Head's expertly crafted shots, align perfectly to create an emotive feature film. The female leads Samara Weaving and Sara West both embody their characters well. Without giving much away, the best scenes of the film involve West and water. West's on screen chemistry with Felicity Price who plays her mother tugs on your heart strings. Benjamin Winspear's acting fails to resonate throughout the film but he plays Amy's unlikeable new father Peter well. Another weak aspect of the movie is Warren Ellis's score which mostly distracts from the story rather than enhances its atmosphere.
Bad Girl, which was released in film festivals last year, won the Best Film award at the 28th Annual Western Australia Screen Awards. Perhaps the film's evocative sense of place helped sway the judges. The Olde Serpentine Tavern is the setting for a major scene in the early part of the movie and it looks charming. Moreover, the West Australian suburban bush is so lovingly cast atmospherically as a space for fun, adventure, romance, and excitement in stark contrast to the severity of the cold modern abode that becomes a space fraught with tension and hatred. Oblique themes can be drawn from Bad Girl but most are tenuous. Does the film, like many thrillers, want us to believe that sometimes people are born "just bad"? Does it have something to say about the strong desire to belong to a family? It is certainly a meditation on manipulation and the corruptibility of youth whose foundations of integrity are still in construction.
Based on this film, non-Australian viewers might be forgiven for being unaware Australia is a multicultural society. The only non-Caucasians cast in Bad Girl were two Chinese foreign investors and an Aboriginal at the pub. Critical race readings aside, Bad Girl is not a bad film. However, it serves no purpose other than to fulfil its duties as a thriller. There are plot twists, red herrings, and a good serving of mortal danger and suspense. However, if you like to support Australian cinema and are looking for an unusual thriller (after all, how many thrillers can you name about an adopted adolescent gay female?) then Bad Girl is the latest treat for you.