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Released 16 November 2012
Director PJ Hogan

Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox, Caroline Goodall
Writer(s) PJ Hogan

Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Todd Fellman, Jocelyn Moorhouse
Origin United States, Australia
Running Time 116 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama
Rating 15A


An inconceivably nasty piece of work from Aussie writer/director PJ Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding), Mental not only derides mental illness but worse, thinks it’s being sensitive and compassionate in portraying a dysfunctional family, of which some members may have a touch of the crazy. It’s like a vicious dog that has been let off the leash and set on a nice furniture set; you can only watch in horror, utterly powerless to stop Hogan as he piles on the unlikeable characters and turns up the crass dial. The film is supposedly a comedy, but I didn’t laugh, except maybe once at my own disdain.

Suburban family of misfits, the Moochmore’s are the laughing stock of their horrible town; the eldest is a social outcast, another daughter talks to aliens, while the mother has a penchant for emotional breakdowns. After her most recent crack-up, the distant politician father acts on a whim and decides to take in a deranged and bonged-up hitchhiker named Shaz (Toni Collete) to teach his daughters some valuable life lessons, sometimes at knifepoint. Like that joke from Peep Show where the characters try to section each other, the majority of the plot revolves around family members trying to either out-crazy the others or send their siblings to the loony bin. But while that show proved that you don’t have to treat a taboo subject with kid gloves to be clever, Mental treats its subject matter horribly and attempts at drama are embarrassing.

This is the lowest of low-brow humour; period blood on a pearl white couch, par exemple. Some scenes are horribly uncomfortable to watch and actually make you doubt the notion of comedy as you realise that somewhere in the world, someone finds this funny. I can’t think why anyone would laugh at anything in this film, unless they’d undergone a botched lobotomy or two. As if it wasn’t enough of an abomination, it regularly features lengthy musical interludes, mostly alluding to the Von Trapp family, due to the mother’s obsession with The Sound of Music. Mental illness aside, obesity and racism are also casually poked fun at and while it thinks it’s being unabashedly Australian, Mental manages to offend just about everyone, including Aussies; "We’re not a penal colony, we’re an asylum". A healthy mix of stereotypes is also present; we’ve got the Crocodile Dundee type (in this case it’s sharks he’s hunting) and the dreamy but asinine surfer dude.

Acting wise, it’s as if Hogan forced his cast to act as boorishly obnoxious and unhinged as possible and the film’s muddled message leaves the most unlikeable characters to come out on top. He evidently has serious personality defects and should be sectioned before being allowed to cause any more damage.

- Cathal Prendergast