Bitter & Twisted Review
Three years after the death of their eldest son Liam, Penelope and Jordan Lombard (Noni Hazlehurst and Steve Rodgers), younger son Ben (Christopher Weekes) and daughter Lisa (Basia A'Hern) have yet to come to terms with their loss. The obese Jordan's work as a car salesman suffers and he becomes unresponsive to his wife. Meanwhile Ben becomes obsessed with Liam's girlfriend Indigo (Leeanna Walsman), who is having an affair with a married man (Gary Sweet).
Bitter & Twisted is a debut film as writer and director for Christopher Weekes, who also gives himself the major role of Ben. However, the film gives the impression of biting off more than it can chew, as it's not as insightful or as affecting as it should be. To give it credit, its performances are its strong suit. Noni Hazlehurst and Leeanna Walsman were both nominated for Australian Film Institute Awards, but just as good is Steve Rodgers as someone slowly imploding from pain and grief. There's also a strong supporting cast, with Gary Sweet effective in a minor role and Penne Hackforth-Jones,. A US-born actress active in Australian cinema since near to the start of the 70s revival, as Indigo's mother. Unfortunately, these performances go for little in a rather bland and shapeless film that at its present rather short length simply feels undeveloped and, towards the ending, somewhat glib. It doesn't linger very long in the memory.
As mentioned above, Noni Hazlehurst and Leeanna Walsman gained the film's only AFI Award nominations, losing to Monic Hendrickx in Unfinished Sky and Toni Collette in The Black Balloon. Bitter & Twisted bypassed British cinemas but gained this DVD release.
Bitter & Twisted is released on DVD by Matchbox Films. The disc is single-layered and encoded for Region 2 only.
The DVD transfer is in a ratio of 1.78:1, opened up slightly from the original 1.85:1, and anamorphically enhanced. Bitter & Twisted was shot on 35mm and it gets a very good transfer, with a muted colour scheme and solid if maybe a little too dense blacks. Grain is filmlike.
There is a choice of soundtracks: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). The film is mostly monophonic with the surrounds being used for the music score and ambience. However, the score and sound design features some surprisingly heavy bass, particularly in the 5.1 version, which gave my subwoofer more of a workout than I was suspecting. Unofrtunately there are no subtitles available.
The only extra is an introduction by the director. “Hi, I'm Chris Weekes from Sydney, Australia,” he says to camera, with the harbour and the Opera House in the background just in case we missed that location. As this item runs just 3:36, this doesn't cover a great deal of ground, though he says he was aiming for a more classical style than a handheld indie look, and we get a glimpse of his 3D computer-generated storyboards. In fact, it's even shorter, as the last two minutes are taken up by the film's trailer.