Helen

Helen is an American woman who has the perfect life. Musical, a mother, married to a rich lawyer husband, she has no reason to quickly slip into a suicidal depression that tears her family apart, which is exactly what she does. She befriends a younger, yet equally troubled cellist and slowly finds her way towards some form of happiness through electro convulsive therapy.
It’s hard to comment on a film such as this, because you can see the good intentions seeping through the cracks of nonsense and white, upper middle class presumption that present themselves as part of the universal. Let’s put aside Helen’s plight descending from a privileged state which means that her subsequent medical treatment is swift and highly personalised. The thing that baffles me most about American movies is the presumption that the standing husband/wife unit have no friends or support structure outside of family whatsoever. Towards the beginning of the film we meet a bunch of people that the pair sit laughing around a dinner table with, but the only other time we see a ‘friend’ is when she is attempting to seduce the husband now that she’s found out Helen has debilitating depression.
The film commands us to see the big D as an entirely medical problem that comes out of nowhere. But you only have to see the figure of Helen, who is entirely obsessed with her husband and daughter to see where there may be a problem. Any time she focuses on anything outside of that family unit (her piano playing, her new friend Matilda) it is seen as a symptom of her depression. Her husband at one point is even violent towards Matilda, but is forgiven because he is ‘frustrated’ that Helen wont go home with him, to the isolation that probably contributed to her depression in the first place. But no, the only thing that can fix her is drugs, ECT, and going back to the family unit. No other options are explored. At one point, Helen talks about her depression as if she is an addict: I’m terrified I’mgoing to relapse. Take these two pills, and if it’s not working in the morning, then take two more pills.
Judd is very good in the role of Helen. Her portrayal of Helen’s uncommunicativeness, her inability to express her pain except through messy tears is commendable. My main problem with the film was what it was trying to say, as it lay somewhere in-between an in depth study of depression and a redemption story. If it was a study of depression, it was clinical and over-medicalised: of the two mentally ill characters, only the one without previous life problems could be saved. If it was a story of redemption, its quasi-scientific use of mental illness as its ‘trial’ was overly simplistic.

See the original article posted here: http://www.beat.com.au/arts/2011/04/8/helen/american-middle-class-depression-electro-colvulsive-therapyit-family-unit-helen-helen-helen-s-uncomm

Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night

Ali McGregor returns to the Melbourne Comedy Festival with her Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night, a splendid way to check out all the acts MICF has to offer while not risking your bank balance on top of your patience.

Nestled in The Famous Spiegeltent, opera singer-cum-cabaret chanteuse McGregor, along with her butler Saxon MacAlistair (alter ego of the surprisingly canny and versatile Asher Treleaven), presented a truly varied number of acts, starting with US stand up Deanne Smith.

Smith cut right to the chase, effortlessly making sometimes uncomfortable social commentary on Australian life as an outsider whilst still making us laugh. And the fact that she made no attempt to win over the diverse yet (as usually comes with the Comedy Festival) relatively conservative audience in relation to her queerness or political bite, won the audience over in itself. She did play the very fashionable ukulele in her act, but you couldn’t hold it against her. Deanne Smith plays at the Victoria Hotel every night of the festival.

The incredibly chaotic magic act produced by Sweden’s Carl-Einar Häckner belies a very clever structure that had the audience slightly confused, but once hooked, in fits of laughter bordering on tears. His act relies on a great deal of clowning, as well as the wordplay that comes with having English as a second language. His surreal bent works best (as it always does) when it’s not highlighted as an integral part of the show. Carl-Einar Häckner performs every night of the festival in The Deluxe at Federation Square.

Irish comedy rockers Dead Cat Bounce have made a massive splash over the last couple of years. Tonight’s short stint may have suffered from their having just finished their own complete set at The Spiegeltent only an hour before. Even so, they’re an entertaining group that are as much about the tropes of an 80’s rock band as the lyrics that go with it.

McGregor herself is a dazzling and accomplished singer, and the main attraction for many of the attending audience, not only for her musical prowess, but for her self admitted love of increasingly elaborate shoes. She’s also an incredibly generous performer; with Saxon MacAlistair bouncing up and down behind her, throwing in a running commentary on the proceedings, she lets him run off his mouth to a great extent, to the benefit of the night as a whole – although recovering from the hilarious trauma of MacAlistair’s diablo act demonstrating ‘How to do Sex,’ will take some time.

Orginal Article: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/ali-mcgregors-late-nite-variety-nite-night-183622?sc=1