The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Review: The Party

Janet has been elected Shadow Minister, with hopes to one day become England’s Prime Minister. To celebrate, she throws a dinner party with her nearest and dearest. Of course, everything goes wrong.

Despite the cliched premise of secrets spilled during a dinner party, this is a very good film. The story is tight and very well acted by a stellar cast; very unusually for a film, the entire cast is made up of just seven people. No extras, no narrator, no one lead character. Ensemble casts are quite uncommon in feature films so it’s a credit to the screenwriter/director and the cast to pull off the feat.

Writer/director Sally Potter also chose another unusual quality for this film: it is shot in black and white. As a film student, I am able to appreciate the lighting to reflect the narrative, highlighting whichever cast member is spilling a secret at that moment. Very well done.

If you’re a fan of dark comedies or any of these actors, this film is definitely worth a viewing.

8 out of 10 popcorns.

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January 28, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perfection: An original short story

Mother and child silhouette

Jenny was a Presbyterian Princess. Her hair was golden blonde. Her cherubic face housed an angelic smile and innocent blue eyes. She sang in the church choir with talk of auditioning for a television talent show, but Jenny was too shy. She believed in Heaven and Hell, telling her school friends she was guaranteed a place in heaven because of her faith. Some of her friends weren’t so lucky. They would be spending eternity bathed in Hellfire for unconfirmed sins which only God knew and Jesus could save them. Knowing her ultimate fate gave Jenny a sense of completeness, a knowing, a calmness. She knew. Everyone wanted to be Jenny’s friend. Just being near her brought peace.

By twelve, Jenny had budding breasts and had caught the eye of her male peers. Jenny’s female peers became envious of this sudden attention. They wished they could speak coolly like her, have golden blonde hair and the boys’ attention. Her face, still angelic, drew peoples’ gaze wherever she went. It’s cool to be Jenny.

Rae considered herself Jenny’s best friend, living next door to her. Despite their friendship, Rae felt plain. She did not worship Jenny the way most people did, however she did feel an aura of popularity because Jenny spoke to her. Rae had mousy brown hair, wore glasses, needed braces but too poor to afford them, and wore plain clothes. Rae held intelligence she wasn’t sure Jenny possessed. Rae had been brought up on the fringes of Christianity; her parents attended church occasionally but now her mother was into spiritualism, tarot cards and crystals. Rae adhered to the idea of Heaven and Hell, believing there was no reason she would be sent to Hell. Rae was good, obeyed her parents and kept her room tidy.

“You’re wrong,” said Jenny one day. “You tell fortunes and worship crystals. The bible forbids that, so you’re going to Hell!”

Why would Jenny say something so mean, unless it was true? Jenny was her best friend, and best friends don’t lie. It’s hard to be Jenny.

In her twenties, Jenny developed a product called Fanny Fit, which could be used to strengthen pelvic muscles. It was a hit- woman all over the world wanted one, especially those who’d had children. Jenny became even more popular, her finances quickly growing to match her dreams. She married Timothy McBeale, a successful, older, extremely handsome businessman . Early in their marriage, he was offered a very attractive deal to work in New York, so Jenny packed up her life and they moved to the commerce capital of the world. Fanny Fit took on a life of its own. Jenny watched her one product spawn several products, worth even more money. She was delighted with her success. Her life in New York was perfect: she was a socialite, seen in all the right places with the right people. Her husband worked hard, earning more money than anyone could spend in one lifetime. Eventually,, Jenny sold her business for an undisclosed amount, rumoured to be several hundred million dollars. It’s rich to be Jenny.

Rae lived a different life. She moved from Sydney after her parents divorced, living briefly near Melbourne before finally settling on a large rural block north of Brisbane. She kept horses and dogs, living on the proceeds from her creative works sold online and at local markets. One of her artworks, a large mural featuring the view from her back verandah, caught the attention of a senior politician in Canberra, who commissioned several pieces for his office and Christmas presents for his friends. Rae was comfortable, but wouldn’t describe herself as happy. She survived. Her daughter and grandson lived several hours’ drive away, but they always visited on holidays and for extended stays in summer. Rae and Jenny stayed in touch via irregular emails and the even rarer phone calls. Some years, Rae would receive a Christmas card from Jenny, with an update on how perfect her life was, but how lucky Rae was to have a child.

By the time Jenny and her husband were ready to have a child, Jenny was considered geriatric. However, she fell pregnant naturally and quickly. Her pregnancy was uncomplicated despite her age. Of course, she saw the very best doctors with the very best health care and the very best hospitals. Neither Jenny nor Tim were in any way concerned about their unborn son, who was destined to be the shining light not only in their world but the entire world. He would be someone. Jenny fantasised about the kind of mother she would be: walking around Central Park with baby in his stroller, highlighting her beautiful boy on social media to attract the very best sponsors who would happily pay for her son to wear their clothes and use their products. He would be a household name by his fifth birthday, raking in his own deals to secure his future. Jenny would lovingly feed and attend to her son, smiling through his tears, soothing him to sleep, taking afternoon naps while he slept next to her. She would teach him all about the world. He would be intelligent and worldly like his father, angelic and God-fearing like his mother. He would be kind yet ambitious, climbing the corporate ladder to eventually run his own wildly successful corporation, right here from New York City. Jenny sighed with happiness. Jenny’s life had always been perfect. Her son would be the pinnacle of her happiness. It’s perfect to be Jenny.

Except it wasn’t. Her labour progressed normally for several hours, until a sudden surge of pain tore through her body. Jenny could see the pained faces of her birthing team as blood began gushing from her. She needed an emergency C section. Tim squeezed her hand as she was wheeled into surgery. Woozy with pain, blood loss and baby joy, Jenny’s first glimpse at her new son was not what she expected.

“This is the wrong baby,” she slurred.

“This is your son, Mrs McBeale,” assured the doctor. “The cord is still attached.” He handed Tim an instrument, clamped the cord and Tim cut through the cord with an exuberant grin on his face. His son was born!

Jenny shook her head. “No!” She tried to scream. “This is not my son!”

Jenny’s son had a cleft palate, and his tiny beating heart was visible under the skin. Tim soothed his wife but she was not listening.

“Mrs McBeale, we need to check your son… but I have to tell you to prepare yourself for the worst.”

Surgery on the newborn was a success to everyone except Jenny. She resented this thing, this creature, for impersonating her perfect child. She argued with the doctors that they had switched the baby. She screamed at Tim for conspiring with the doctors to give her an imperfect child. Her real son would not require surgery. He would be born perfect, like newborns should. This child was imperfect. His cleft palate would hardly be noticeable in a few years, she was assured, but he would require surgery on his heart frequently as he grew. No one was able to offer an explanation as to why her son suffered these atrocities of nature. Jenny had another explanation.

“I have sinned,” she confessed to the hospital chaplain.

“What is your sin?”

Jenny gulped back her tears. “I do not know, Father. But I am being punished! My son… he is deformed. It’s punishment for my sins.”

The chaplain reassured her that God does not punish babies for their mothers’ sins, but Jenny could not be placated. She insisted the chaplain leave. If he didn’t believe her, who else would? She yelled at God; her screams could be heard from the nurses’ station. A psychologist was summoned but she too was thrown from Jenny’s room. For the first time in her life, Jenny did not talk to God. He had betrayed her. She was a sinner, destined for the eternal fiery pits of Hell with an ugly creature instead of a son.

Jenny and her unnamed son were released from hospital a month after his birth. Her son was doing exceptionally well, he was a little fighter exceeding everyone’s expectations. Jenny had been prescribed antidepressant medication, which she refused to take. Tim was at his wits’ end, submersing himself in work to avoid dealing with his psychotic wife and his needy newborn. He hired a nurse instead, worried Jenny would do something to her child while he was away. Instead of encouraging mother to bond with her child, the nurse kept them apart, also worried Jenny would harm him. The nurse tried slipping medication into Jenny’s food and drink, but Jenny refused to eat. She sipped purified water from her water bottle which she filled herself. When she slept, the bottle was tucked under her arm or hidden elsewhere to prevent contamination. Everyone was now against Jenny. They hated her for her sins. They judged her for birthing an imperfect child. Tim named his son Benjamin. Jenny refused to acknowledge the child.

One day, the nurse insisted Jenny take a day outside. She organised a day spa treatment, designed to rejuvenate Jenny’s wellbeing. It was unlike Jenny to miss so many days of exercise, self care and skin treatments. Already her athletic body was thinning, her skin beginning to sag with lost weight.

Jenny returned that evening cradling another baby. She had snatched the child while his mother paid for ice cream, distracted by her two toddlers. This baby was perfect. She named him Samuel.

It’s fucked to be Jenny.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

Review: A Bold Life by Kerri-Anne Kennerley

I can hear your groans from here. KAK? Really? What’s so interesting about her?

KAK, as she is affectionately known, is undoubtedly the Queen of Aussie TV. Twelve years hosting Good Morning Australia and two years hosting Midday (including enticing Peter Costello to dance the Macarena) plus countless other appearances, have endeared the bubbly blonde to so many Australians.

Fun fact: Kerri-Anne grew up not far from where I now live, in a little town called Sandgate, just across the peninsula from Redcliffe. She stubbornly fought her way into Brisbane’s children’s television and, as she writes in her memoir, fought for every other entertainment gig she’s ever done.

There are some things in her memoir that are relevant today: gender bias and enormous pay gaps, sexual harassment of females in the workplace, bullying because of her hair colour and gender, and cultural misappropriation, such as when she dressed in blackface.

However, that’s where the interest stops. Her memoir is littered with name dropping on every single page, interspersed with stories about wildly fun parties, her perfect relationship with husband John and not-so-subtle reminders about how rich they are. Kerri-Anne is known for her optimism but this 370 page tome just comes across as arrogant. I can see what she’s trying to do: mix personal stories with her pioneering journalistic abilities, but all she really succeeds in doing through this memoir is demonstrating how many famous people she’s friends with.

There are moments of heartbreak: Kerri-Anne suffered a miscarriage, later paraded on national television as choosing career over family. Her first marriage was punctuated by domestic violence and drug abuse. Her battle with breast cancer. And now, her beloved hubby John is a quadriplegic facing numerous health challenges every day.

Yet somehow, these moments are glossed over with the benefit of hindsight and Kerri-Anne’s personal philosophy of just getting over and on with it. The things that make her relatable are mentioned then tossed away, ready for more stories about fabulous celebrity friends.

It’s hard not to roll your eyes at the over-the-top-ness of it all, but then again, KAK is OTT. For me, I’m interested in the humanity of celebrities, not how they came to snag George Harrison’s only Australian interview.

I advise reading this book wearing high heels and a lot of sequins whilst drinking red wine. It’s the only way.

4 out of 10 bookmarks

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment