Peter Malone MSC 17 October 2023

Christmas time, Melbourne, 1999. A career-crazed journalist dredges up the sordid secrets of an infamous socialite after her mysterious disappearance.

SLANT, Australia, 2022. Starring Michael Nikou, Sigrid Thornton, Elle Mandalis, Ryan A Murphy, Kate Lister, Ra Chapman, Pia Miranda, Shannon Berry, Petra Yarred, Neal Pigot, Monique Fisher, Fabio Motta and Simeon Bisas. Directed by James Vinson. 113 minutes. Rated MA (strong violence and coarse language).

By the end of this quite quirky film – a lot of black comedy, but with underlying serious themes – audiences may well have a range of slants in their takes on the characters and how this story is told. At one stage, someone refers to characters and events as ‘weird’. And they are not wrong. At times, Slant is very weird – but strangely watchable.

In an interview with the writer-star, Michael Nikou, he confirms some suspicions we might have as we watch the film. It seems that the writer was making it up as he went along, continually asking ‘what if . . .?’ A 90°-angle turn in plot, then a character backflip, 180°, 90° again so that we are not quite sure where we are being led. Michael Nouki says there were at least 17 drafts of the film which indicates that this ‘what if . . .?’ was his mode of writing, making new decisions in character development (and fates) with each draft.

Actually, it all seems rather weird right from the beginning. The focus is on Derek Verity, an intense monologue of instant mood swings but suddenly his getting a life-saving journalist job, a harsh boss (and later surprise there), an ambitious rival, and eventually proving that he can create a slant on everything and insinuate himself everywhere.

And, Slant could be called a family film – a story of two families, dysfunctional to say the least. There is Derek’s family, his mother, Sigrid Thornton, an alcoholic ageing actress, his brother, Billy, looking a lot like John Candy, repressed, potential for breakout. Family secrets, clashes, fights . . .

The other family is that of a female socialite who has disappeared, with her husband accused of killing her. He defends himself, while her sister, Elle Mandalis, embraces the press opportunity to make a statement. Pia Miranda appears as the other sister of the deceased woman.

To say, as some commentators have, that the plot is convoluted is something of an understatement. There are all kinds of scenes, often appearing out of nowhere, characters at an Al-Anon session creating pandemonium; a memorial for the deceased which erupts; Derek’s mother auditioning for a role, and a close-up of her reciting lines from Medea superimposed on actions of her children . . . You never know what is coming up next. And, while there is an accusation of murder, there are some murders in fact, and some touches of the gory.

Good drama requires suspension of disbelief – and, while one might have shaken one’s head during Derek’s initial monologue, disbelief, head shaking increases exponentially as the film goes on, and, by the final 20 minutes or so, non-stop shaking head in disbelief.

So, one might say a bizarre cinema experience. There’s a lot of talent behind the film and on screen, weirdly interesting and entertaining.

Bim Bim Films, Around the Moon Productions and From the Hearth
Released 5 October