Philip (Steve Martin) runs a lifeline out of a decrepit building which is due to be replaced by condos any time, but he doesn’t have the heart to tell his staff Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) or Catherine (Rita Wilson). Meanwhile, Catherine has befriended Gracie (Juliette Lewis), a local pregnant girl whose partner Felix (Anthony LaPaglia) is an ex-con who has no job and keeps getting hurt and treated by local vet Dr. Kinsky (Rob Reiner). Then there is Louie (Adam Sandler playing his somewhat mentally lacking character by doing a stupid voice) and Chris (Liev Schreiber) a transvestite who needs to get away from his appalling family.
Perhaps in the nineties it was more okay to make fun of mental illness. I don’t recall. What I know is that this film is somewhat of a strange mix of good and bad representations – Philip and several other characters balk when they see a man in a dress, but it doesn’t take them too long to accept him – so bad then good… There are some things that kind of work in this film, but overall it is just a massive mess that, if it worked in 1994, it doesn’t hold up now.
In jail, mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is the target of someone who wants to kill him. He fakes mental illness to be released into the care of Dr Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal). Then all matter of crazy happens (again). He’s also a lot meaner and nastier than in the first, and that’s not so enjoyable.
If it works once, doesn’t mean it needs to be revisited. It just was not that good. It had some of the humour and heart of the first one, but there wasn’t enough, and the storyline wasn’t that great. In fact, watching this almost ruined the first one for me.
Based on the play Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, Lantana is a relationship film that shows a series of couples going through difficulties. To go into more detail would take a lot away from the gradual unwinding of the stories.
The film won a lot of awards at the time, and it’s really not hard to see why. The script is tight in the way of many films based on good plays. The cast of the film is extremely strong – although that’s not hard to tell with these names: Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Armstrong and Barbara Hershey. The story unwinds in small grabs and throughout, my mind was twisting and turning, trying to figure out what had happened, or what was happening. It is truly a fabulous film.