Nicholas Inglis reviews Aussie rom com musical Goddess

Goddess is a pleasant, feel good experience with likeable songs and production numbers, with a clear message to those who dare to follow their dreams.

When lonely frustrated housewife Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly) is given a webcam by her husband (Ronan Keating) to communicate with him whilst he is away on a whale studying expedition to the Antarctica, she becomes increasingly frustrated when he is not available to take her calls.

Instead, the webcam helps her reconnect with her past as a performer and allows her the opportunity to sing her own songs online to whoever wants to watch.

People eventually begin to tune in and take notice of Elspeth and her web shows. Many diverse characters are used to represent her online viewing audience including a curious tiara-wearing Princess. One such person is Cassandra Wolfe (played by the wonderfully talented Magda Szubanksi).

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Her character, on the surface is a cutthroat advertising executive with a penchant for snacking on the job and is a delight to watch and a much needed addition to the film. Wolfe travels to Tasmania to bring back Elspeth to be the ‘Internet Goddess’ and spokesperson for a line of Female designer laptops, which carry the slogan “For All The Woman You Are”.

Taking the plunge, Elspeth travels to Sydney to follow her dreams of stardom leaving her family at home and in the care of babysitters. With the webcam in place however she continues to monitor her home life. Elspeth is quickly tempted with the prospects of a life of glamour, fame and a male love interest in the form of a Sydney busker named Rory (played by Dustin Clare of Spartacus: Blood and Sand fame).

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The film essentially poses the question of what do you do if you were offered fame, fortune and the world, but had to sacrifice your family to do so? Elspeth is finally offered the contract of a lifetime and she must decide her own fate.

The film is an adaptation of the 1997 stage play Sinksongs originally written and performed by Joanna Weinberg and with new music written for the film by Joanna Weinberg and Bryony Marks.

Make no mistake, this is a musical film. The opening homage to The Sound of Music lets you know what’s in store. There is however a nice mixture of song styles and dance that somewhat helps to progress the story. A highlight is the song Do You Know Who I Am performed by Szubanski and a chorus of male dancers in an effort to convince Elspeth to sign her contract.

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The Nigela-esque looking Dickens herself is not new to ‘the musical’ having played the title role in Mary Poppins on the London stage for a number of years. Despite liking her portrayal of Elspeth in the film, I found it hard to warm to her character both as a mother of trying twins and a housewife at the crossroads of life.

Ronan Keating is very pleasant in his role as James Dickens, absent husband to Elspeth, and has some touching (and revealing) scenes. He is of course also given the opportunity to sing. This is Keating’s film debut and is much welcomed.

It is Szubanski however who steals the show and has been given the best lines and delivers them to perfection. I would not be surprised if Magda’s line, “Aren’t we naughty?” will become part of the Australian vernacular like “You’re terrible Muriel” from Muriel’s Wedding.

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Corinne Grant is entertaining as the prudish Fizz, one of a number of house mums who follow Elspeth’s adventures online.

It was also great to see Lucy Durack (Wicked, and currently Legally Blonde stage fame), in the role of Cherry, the pretty vivacious baby sitter who comes to look after the children and in turn James the husband whilst Elspeth follows her dreams (and at the same time Cherry by way of the hidden webcam!) I only wish her character had the opportunity to sing in the role. Pia Miranda as Sophie is also a great addition to the cast.

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Watch out also for a number of Aussie comedians who if you don’t remember by name you will certainly recall the face.

The film is beautifully shot with fabulous scenic views of Tasmania and Sydney Harbor. Take note also of the very clever use of set design to represent distance between the couple.

Writer/director is Mark Lamprell who has clocked up writing credits on Babe: Pig In the City, TV Series Slide and My Mother Frank (which he also directed).

The costumes designed by Shareen Beringer for Szubanski and Kelly are particularly fun and especially the seven armed green alien created for Elspeth’s television advertisements.

All in all, a pleasant, feel good experience with likeable songs and production numbers and a clear message to those who dare to follow their dreams.

Goddess opens in cinemas across Australia on Thursday.

the author

Nick Inglis

I am a full-time Lawyer and part-time film costume collector and movie historian. I have a great love and passion for film and movie history and have been collecting and preserving original screen worn costumes and props for 15 years. I also run a blog on film costume which you can find here: vintagefilmpropsandcostumes.blogspot.com.au

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