What to watch when you sensibly avoid watching Goddess
The movie musical has not been doing itself any favours, recently. Les Mis got us way to up close and personal to Eddie Redmayne’s larynx, Mamma Mia made us listen to Pearce Brosnan sing, and someone decided to remake Annie. You’d be forgiven for thinking musicals are just bad, and plenty of people do.
Goddess is not going to help this conception. Fortunately, I know loads of films that will, so this review will be alleviated by suggestions for a musical education.
Based on a one woman show, Goddess tells the story of Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly), a London girl living in a remote area of Tasmania so her husband James (Ronan Keating) can study whales. She spends all her time alone, looking after her two-year-old twins, singing away her loneliness and frustration after they’re in bed.
WATCH INSTEAD: For a musical about someone who’s discontented with their ordinary life, see Little Shop of Horrors.
When she complains about how long James spends away with the whales, he buys her a webcam, and she begins live streaming her songs for all the world to see. She soon becomes an internet sensation, and catches the attention of advertising bigwig and self-proclaimed “corporate bitch” Cassandra Wolfe (Magda Szubanski).
WATCH INSTEAD: For a musical about the cutthroat corporate world, see How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
Elspeth is hired to front a campaign for a new laptop designed specifically for women. You can tell it’s designed for women because it’s small and sleek and has curlicues and furls printed all over it. (ASIDE: collective groan) Forced to be away from her twins, and repeatedly asked to compromise her values, Elspeth begins to question whether fame is what she wants.
WATCH INSTEAD: For a musical about the ugliness of fame see Dreamgirls.
The story seem simple enough, but somehow it manages to not make a lick of sense. It jumps around from crisis to crisis, without really showing how they’ve arisen. A marriage-risking flirtation comes out of nowhere, and Elspeth’s ultimate need to choose between family and career is contrived and unlikely.
In addition, distracting inconsistencies keep darting in to break whatever suspension of disbelief you’ve managed to scrape for yourself. For example, Elspeth manages to set up a live stream of her kitchen all by herself, but doesn’t know how to upload videos to YouTube. She also doesn’t know how to tell when her kitchen is being inappropriately broadcast to the world. Also, husband James is keen enough on the idea of singing to engage in a plaintive duet while he’s on the open seas and his wife’s in a field miles away, but he doesn’t ever, not once, not at all, watch any of the songs she’s put online, not even when she’s offered an international ad campaign.
Kelly is an engaging star with a fantastic voice (she was the West End’s Mary Poppins, so that’s no surprise) and the songs themselves are catchy, sometimes even mildly humorous. But they’re drowned out by dated over styling, and incredibly strange post-recorded sighs, grimaces, and grunts.
The supporting cast is mostly made up of redundant musical theatre stars, who serve as backing singers to Kelly. They given neither songs nor characters; their role is simply to be shocked by everything that crazy Elspeth does.
The welcome exception is Szubanski as Cassandra, a joyous departure from the role in Kath & Kim for which she’s famous, who gets a power ballad, and although the character spends most of the film being a clichéd archetype, she does get one real moment of truth. Albeit a truth that’s its own cliché.
People will enjoy Goddess, and their enjoyment will be less grating than that of Walking On Sunshine, for example (ASIDE: based solely on the bus adverts because there’s no way in hell I’m putting myself through another juke box musical), but it is not really worthy of attention. Which is sad. It could have been fun.
WATCH INSTEAD: for a musical that actually IS fun, see Hairspray, Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Polly, High Society, or Singin’ in the Rain.