Two Friends

on April 24, 1996 by Estep Nagy
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   This first feature from the director of "Sweetie," "An Angel at My Table" and "The Piano" is a well-done freshman effort, but it will probably appeal more to those sympathetic to and familiar with Jane Campion's later work than it will for the uninitiated. "Two Friends" is a small, 16mm film that in a reverse chronology details the friendship of two Aussie teenagers, Louise (Emma Coles) and Kelly (Kris Bidenko), the proverbial good and bad girls who begin at the same point but end radically different.
   The film opens with Kelly's funeral and retrospectively charts her slide into drugs and her disillusionment with a life of apparent promise; it ends with Kelly shrieking for joy. While Kelly's problems are fueling the plot engine, Louise as the watcher and wounded friend has the more complex role and holds the piece together. If the structure sounds a bit arch, it is, but Campion's sharp eye for the details of women's relationships and strong performances from the young Coles and from Kris McQuade as Louise's mother make the characters' world compelling and the narrative gerrymandering largely irrelevant.    Starring Emma Coles, Kris Bidenko and Kris McQuade. Directed by Jane Campion. Written by Helen Gardner. Produced by Jan Chapman. A Milestone release. Comedy. Unrated. Running time: 76 min.
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