You’ve moved to Tasmania. Your husband is off saving whales. Your twin two year olds are terrors that won’t take their wings off. Literally. And you have no family or friends around. What do you do? Let out your frustrations at the kitchen sink. And by let our frustrations, I mean…sing. Sing. SING.
Based on the semi-autobiographical one woman show by Joanna Weinberg the film follows the journey of Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly), a singing and dancing star with no audience until her husband buys her a webcam so they can stay in touch when he’s away. The fictionalised part of the story is the overnight success of her webcam channel, but really, in these days where Grumpy Cat is the star to see at SxSW, perhaps not so unbelievable. Love you Grumpy Cat.
Elspeth is spotted by advertising exec Cassandra Wolfe (Magda Szubanski) who is in desperate need for a quadruple threat (singing/dancing/acting/relatable) star to front their multimillion dollar “Goddess” campaign for an all new TV campaign. Elspeth can’t ignore the opportunity before her and jets off to Sydney while a nanny, and then an early returning husband (Ronan Keating), take on ‘Mum’ duties at home.
Considering this was a film quite a while in development, “Goddess” taps into a few interesting trends very relevant today: The concept of broadcasting your life, the line where entertainment and privacy blurs, the pressure on women with children to balance careers with motherhood, guilt if they side with career, and sometimes loneliness if they don’t.
This film wouldn’t work if Elspeth isn’t all parts gorgeous, talented, funny, and flawed, and British Laura Michelle Kelly, in her first leading role away from the West End and Broadway stage, absolutely nails it. She has charisma to spare and manages to infuse her character with the same bumbling charm that makes you think this would be the life of Bridget Jones had she married Ronan Keating, moved to Australia and been a little bit better at karaoke than she was at her staff Christmas party.
Ronan Keating, in his first acting role, also comes very natural on screen, making it understandably difficult for Elspeth to remain away from her family, even when a gorgeous busker come serenading across Darling Harbour.
Magda Szubanski as Cassandra Wolfe is a force to be reckoned with both in appearance and demeanour, and while she is the scary power woman not uncommon as villains of the piece, her character is surprisingly well drawn, understandable, and actually speaks common sense in key scenes of the film. I know I know. I couldn’t believe it either. Kudos.
Australian films have had a hard time of late finding an audience within their own country. While this film is overtly targeted towards females, it is a feel good film that will hopefully spread beyond its primary audience. The original songs are catchy and fun and you will leave the film with a spring in your step. Here’s hoping people will find it first.