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[whitespace] Sleuth Truth

A lesbian PI goes looking for a missing poet in 'Monkey's Mask'

By Jim Aquino

SUSIE PORTER'S turn as a lesbian sleuth is too big for a picture that's small, Samantha Lang's Australian whodunit The Monkey's Mask, a routine detective thriller. The backstory of Porter's divorced, broke ex-cop-turned-PI Jill Fitzpatrick is more interesting than the actual case.

The underdeveloped mystery involves Sydney's spoken-word scene and a missing university student named Mickey (Abbie Cornish), who comes from a conservative family and leads another life as a poet known for her obscene, rape imagery-filled verses and voracious sexual appetite. Mickey's hard-core poetry bears the influence of her poetry professor, icy blonde Diana Maitland (Kelly McGillis), who may have played a role in her student's disappearance.

Jill is certain that Diana is hiding details about her connection to Mickey's absence, yet that doesn't stop her from having an affair with this academic femme fatale. Diana's suave and much younger husband (Marton Csokas) knows Diana is cheating on him with Jill. But in the film's only touch of humor, he doesn't seem to mind; in fact, he's turned on by these two gorgeous women hooking up. The Monkey's Mask doesn't seem to show much enthusiasm for the art of spoken word. Devotees of the scene may abhor how it's represented here. There's more heart in the portrayal of Jill, played with both charm and authority by Porter. Her craftiest moment is a scene in which Jill shows a videotape of Mickey's poetry to her client, the girl's appalled conservative mother (Linden Wilkinson), who cries, "God, she must have been a monster!" Jill tells her, "No, just a teenager," and Porter's tender, astonishing delivery of the line reveals depths about her character that The Monkey's Mask is too lead-footed to further explore.

The Monkey's Mask (Unrated; 91 min.), directed by Samantha Lang, written by Anne Kennedy, photographed by Garry Phillips and starring Susie Porter and Kelly McGillis, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the August 23-29, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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