Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Australia 2003
Directed by
Rolf De Heer
103 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Alexandra's Project

Synopsis:  For Adelaide white collar worker, Steve (Gary Sweet) the day starts well. Everything is as it should be in his suburban family home. It’s his birthday and his two children have woken him with presents. His wife Alexandra (Helen Buday) tells him that he will get her present to him when he returns home from work. He has no idea what that is going to mean for him.

As a portrait of a spiritually bankrupt marriage, Rolf De Heer’s film is very effective, as a revenge thriller it is less so. Whether anyone is going to sit through the unrelieved grimness is another matter again.

From the get-go De Heer lets us know that there is trouble in Paradise. Despite a veneer of everydayness Alexandra is clearly on edge though her narcissistic husband is too caught up with his own concerns to notice. The dark interior of their home and Ian Jones’s sliently lingering camera, suggests a sense of foreboding. When Alexandra spits on her reflection in the mirror we know this is not going to be just another day. 

After a section depicting more of Steve’s self-satisfied egotism at play in his workplace we move to the main part of film - the delivery of Alexandra’s birthday present to Steve, a videotape specially designed to make him realize how completely he has failed to notice Alexandra’s descent into emotional Hell.  From here on the film is pretty much a shot-reverse-shot exchange between what we see and hear of Alexandra on the videotape and Steve’s reaction to it. 

It’s grueling stuff as Alexandra toys with Steve exorcising the hatred she has for him which has built up over the years of their marriage. Clearly De Heer wants us to empathise with her but the problem is we want to ask how did she ever let things come to such a pass? The scenario seems too contrived, more like some kind of arch-feminist morality play. So much so that as the set-up drags on we even start to feel a modicum of pity for Steve and losing it for Alexandra/De Heer. This is especially so when we arrive at Alexandra’s ultimate act of revenge upon Steve.  On a purely practical level the conversion of the house into a kind of torture chamber also seems to be stretching credulity. Surely nothing could be so well stage-managed as this? As for the film’s seemingly black comic resolution, well such incredulity is even more justified.

Buday who spends much of the film topless (why?, you may well ask), does a fine job, but Sweet, who is by no means a good actor, cannot rise above the constraints of his effectively passive role (Sweet only saw the video for the first time as De Heer filmed him watching it) as Steve’s bluff self-image disintegrates. His wig is no more convincing.

Whatever shortcomings the film has as such, overall one can’t help but wonder what De Heer was trying to do here. Few films seem so invested with such bitterness and Alexandra’s hatred of her husband seems more like De Heer’s self-loathing than any real-life situation we could identify with.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst