Emotionally and psychologically textured melodrama suffers under the weight of its source material in The Eye of the Storm, Fred Schepisi's adaptation of Australian Nobel Prize winner Patrick White's 1973 novel. Schepisi's direction has a measured stateliness that, in conjunction with Kate Williams' graceful editing, lends quiet, dreamy intensity to the tumultuous proceedings, at least until a sluggish third act. Yet in trying to remain staunchly faithful to the page, the film — about the visit of spoiled playwright-actor Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and sister Princess Dorothy (Judy Davis) to the deathbed of their wealthy, domineering matriarch Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling) — crams in so many subplots, thematic threads, and peripheral players that much is treated with hasty sketchiness. Nonetheless, even without its unnecessary cutaways to shots of worm-infested fruit and flowers, its portrait of the grotesque über-privileged has considerable bite, bracingly reveling in the greed, selfishness, bitterness, jealousy, neurosis, detachment, and hunger for power and sex of its upstairs familial unit and the downstairs servants and lovers. Narrative unevenness notwithstanding, those hangups are given delicious life by a superb Rush, Davis, and Rampling (the last often confined to a bed and encased in elderly makeup), who prove a regally dysfunctional trio par excellence.
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