Naughty girls and femme fatales – a fascination with female misbehaviour fuels these two very different films. Here’s a double bill that will take you from thoughtful coming-of-age story through to energetic black comedy.
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28 Sep 2017 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2017 - 11:39 AM

We know it can be overwhelming to choose a movie from the 900+ now streaming at SBS On Demand. In this new series, we suggest movies best watched back-to-back (i.e. 'Watch this, then that'). 

In the 2009 Finnish movie 'Forbidden Fruit', two 18-year-old girls raised in a strict religious community break free to taste worldly pleasures when they travel from their rural village to big city Helsinki. Their misdemeanours  - wearing makeup, drinking alcohol, kissing boys and forgetting to pray - seem positively innocent when compared with those of the gleeful and murderous Aussie vixen, Katrina Skinner (Emily Barclay), the 19-year-old single mum at the centre of Suburban Mayhem (2007).

Forbidden Fruit (Kielletty Hedelmä) is directed by Dome Karukoski and written by Aleksi Bardy, the successful Finnish writer-director team behind Heart of a Lion (Leijonasydän, 2013) and Tom of Finland (releasing in Australia October 2017). The story concerns best friends Maria (Amanda Pilke) and Raakel (Marjut Maristo) who have grown up in the restrictive Christian Laestadian community, where biblical teachings are taken literally.

These prohibit dancing, movies, birth control and anything else deemed ‘hedonistic’. When the lusty and curious Maria runs away to explore the city, her quieter and more conservative friend Raakel is sent by the religious elders to try to bring her back to the fold. But once Raakel encounters the wider world and its many temptations (especially those of the cinema and a handsome young film buff), she too begins to question her faith and yearn for a life less constrained.

With moments of melodrama and fiercely felt teen angst, Forbidden Fruit is particularly good at depicting what it is these wayward girls risk losing if they decide to stay in the wider world: strong family ties, traditions and a safe and peaceful life in beautiful countryside. While the Laestadian religion is painted as strange and old-fashioned, it’s also depicted with respect, as too are the choices each of the girls make.

For a wilder ride, strap yourself in with the Commodore-driving, chain-smoking heroine of 'Suburban Mayhem' (2006). Emily Barclay won the AFI Award for Best Lead Actress for this performance as the utterly shameless Katrina Skinner. A foul-mouthed bogan femme fatale, she’s so assured of her cherubic good looks and talent for ‘blow-jobs’ that she thinks she can manipulate any man while remaining above the law.

Early in the film we meet Katrina as she basks in publicity while answering a news crew’s questions about the mystery of her father’s murder. Candid interviews with other participants flesh out the story, mixed with flashbacks.

There’s Katrina’s long-suffering boyfriend Rusty (Michael Dorman), her sweet beautician (Mia Wasikowska) and the policeman who’s onto her, but can’t quite prove it (Steve Bastoni). Her tight and obsessive relationship with her older brother Danny (Laurence Breuls) fuels the plot. He’s a very bad egg, in jail for life for a senseless murder, and Katrina wants money to buy him a lawyer. She’ll do anything to get it, including setting up his simple-minded best friend (Anthony Hayes).

Director Paul Goldman (Australian Rules, The Night we Called it a Day) and writer Alice Bell, who was just 21 when she penned the script, tell the story with verve and wit, energised by an original soundtrack by Mick Harvey. There are some cartoon flourishes, for example, when we hear Katrina’s drug addict mum verbally described as being ‘like a zombie’, we see multiple versions of her stumbling across a suburban lawn and banging on the door begging for money.

Katrina is a juicy and enjoyable female monster, but Suburban Mayhem succeeds in painting the characters surrounding her (especially her father, played by Robert Morgan) with enough pathos to make us care whether she gets away with this outrageously bad behaviour.

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