Lewis Fitz-Gerald

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e08 – The Blood of Juana the Mad

Depending on the setting, there are certain predictable reactions from Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) as well as from “Miss Fisher,” the show; for instance, this episode takes place at a medical university—where Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh) teaches—and involves the rich male students (and the male teachers) harassing an exceptional female student, Andrea Demetriades. So it’s going to be a bit of a downer because 1920s, privilege, institutionalized sexism and so on.

Except not so much here, because Demetriades’s character is able to surmount the obstacles. Yes, she and Davis have to convince Nathan Page Demetriades isn’t seeing conspiracies in the shadows—or, rather, is seeing conspiracies in the shadows—but Page’s only slow to get onboard because he’s still working out his feelings about working with Davis.

Davis, for her part, is more than happy to drag and push Page towards the obvious conclusion—he’s never going to have a better partner.

We also get to see the sexism Macintosh has to endure professionally, whether it’s discreet and from a supportive colleague (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) or weaponized from a prick colleague (Nicholas Hope). Not to mention the blue blood students get to harass female student and teacher alike without fear of repercussion. William Ewing’s great as one such odious little shit.

The murder involves not just the dead body, but also missing manuscripts and skulls—which gives Davis a great Hamlet reference at one point—and secret agents, which turns into a subplot for Page to work through mostly on his own.

The resolution is a little rushed—the murderer’s motive doesn’t get the four minutes it needs in the first act to resonate later, but it’s understandable because it’d make not just the murderer reprehensible, it’d make most of the rest of the supporting cast complicit in some very bad thoughts.

But thanks to Demetriades, who’s excellent as well as an excellent Phryne protege (Ashleigh Cummings doesn’t get anywhere near as much to do as usual but she’s great with Demetriades, who ends up staying at Davis’s house for a bit), and the intentionally paced Page and Davis subplot, it’s delightful. Eventually.

Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train (1988, Bob Ellis)

Tedious. Tedious is a good word for Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train. The polite way of saying tedious is deliberate–as in, the filmmakers very surely lay it out, taking their time and making sure they get it right. After fifty minutes of Warm Nights–it’s a ninety-minute film–I finally realized what was so damn tedious about it. Until an hour in, the whole thing is a first act. The film immediately introduces its protagonist, a teacher (played by Wendy Hughes) who moonlights on weekends as a hooker on a train, and proceeds to show us her experiences with three johns. Interspersed are scenes of her life as a teacher (brief, like thirty second scenes) and a little bit of her taking care of her disabled brother. But there’s nothing in terms of character development–she tells each john a different lie and those short scenes of her “real” life are mostly in summary, not detail.

The dramatic vehicle–the event to get the story started–happens around minute fifty, when she finally talks to Colin Friels’s mysterious man on the train. For most of the film, Hughes’s male costars look like they’re out of a 1970s Atlantic City casino–so when Friels, even if he is sporting an iffy South African accent, looks real good. Except the film doesn’t get going then. It continues on at its awkward pace and, knowing the running time, I kept trying to figure what, if anything, could happen with twenty-six minutes remaining or whatever. Well, the solution is simple–if you’ve got a forty-five minute first act in a ninety minute film, just skip a second act and go straight to the third. First and third, with a snap of the fingers.

The film isn’t frustrating to watch and it’s not quite boring, because it’s well-acted, well-written, and well-made, but there’s nothing going on. Hughes’s performance is fantastic, but it’s fantastic in the film as a whole–she’s not an actor who does a really good scene here and there, it’s the development–in the tedious film. Even when the film introduces a sense of danger, it doesn’t move any faster. Everything comes together at the end–and it’s never bad enough to stop watching in the opening half–but if you aren’t alert at the end, you might miss the whole thing.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Bob Ellis; written by Ellis and Denny Lawrence; director of photography, Yuri Sokol; edited by Tim Lewis; music by Peter Sullivan; production designer, Tracy Watt; produced by Ross Dimsey and Patric Juillet; released by Western Pacific Films.

Starring Wendy Hughes (The Girl), Colin Friels (The Man), Norman Kaye (The Salesman), John Clayton (The Football Coach), Rod Zuanic (The Young Soldier), Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Brian), Steve J. Spears (The Singer), Grant Tilly (The Politican) and Peter Whitford (The Steward).


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