Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / Heavenly Creatures

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/heavenlycreatures_8108.jpg
Tis indeed a miracle, one must feel... That two such heavenly creatures are real.
Advertisement:

Heavenly Creatures is a 1994 film by Peter Jackson, and most notably the first film of both Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

Set in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the early 1950s, the story is narrated by 14-year old Pauline Rieper (Lynskey) through her diary entries.

Pauline Rieper is a bright, imaginative, but gloomy girl, traits that set her apart from both her salt-of-the-earth working-class family and her run-of-the-mill schoolmates. Enter Juliet Hulme (Winslet), a New Transfer Student from England, born to a wealthy, glamorous, intellectual family—everything that Pauline dreams of for herself.

Bonding over their childhood ailments, their feelings of superiority and loneliness, and their shared imaginary fantasy kingdom, Pauline and Juliet quickly become inseparable. Both the fantasies and the friendship sustain the girls during a tumultuous year in which Pauline's already rocky relationship with her mother steadily declines, Juliet's health issues threaten her life, and the Hulmes' marriage teeters on the brink of divorce. With their worlds falling apart around them, Pauline and Juliet seem to withdraw not only from their families, but from reality itself, falling into fantasies in which they escape to The Fourth World, a Personalized Afterlife of "music, art, and pure enjoyment" occupied by their hand-selected "saints" and accessible to only an elite few "heavenly creatures"—such as themselves.

Advertisement:

Alarmed by the intensity of the friendship and the changes it has wrought on their daughters, the two sets of parents agree that it would be best to separate them, with Pauline's mother appearing to be the ringleader behind the plot. Juliet will be sent to live with relatives in South Africa, and Pauline, unable to obtain a passport without her parents' consent, will be left behind. But on the eve of Juliet's departure, Pauline comes up with the perfect plan to stay together.

Based on a True Story. Weird trivia note: the real Juliet Hulme later achieved international fame as best-selling mystery novelist Anne Perry.


Advertisement:

Provides Examples Of:

  • Achey Scars: Pauline has a huge one on her leg; Juliet's are on her lungs.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Pauline seems to be relatively well-liked at her school and cordial with her family when the film begins, but withdraws as her friendship with Juliet intensifies.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: An incredibly creepy example.
  • Big Fancy House: Ilam, home of the Hulmes.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Juliet.
  • The Cameo: The homeless guy Juliet hugs towards the beginning of the movie when she and Pauline are running out of the theater in joy is Peter Jackson.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The movie's first glimpse of Pauline is a shot of her hastily tugging her stocking up her thigh as she hurries to school. In the final scene, the same stocking, now loaded with a brick, is used to bludgeon her mother.
    • The ring with a pink jewel in the middle that first shows up in an Imagine Spot is what the girls use to distract Honora so they can attack her.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Kate Winslet goes into this area every now and again.
  • Commonality Connection: Juliet and Pauline bond over their shared history of being Ill Girls. They are also both huge fans of the Biggles adventure series.
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: The girls are assigned to write an essay on "The Role of the Royal Family Today". Juliet writes on the royal family of Borovnia, the fantasy realm she and Pauline created. Pauline comes to her defense by pointing out the assignment never specified which royals.
  • Cure Your Gays
    Doctor Bennett: Chances are she'll grow out of it. If not... well, medical science is progressing in leaps and bounds. There could be a breakthrough at any time!
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A variation, but when Pauline's parents are Slut-Shaming her for sleeping with Jonathan (when she actually had only cuddled with him), she retaliates by sneaking over to his house and making it official, whilst imagining she's actually in Borovnia reuniting with Diello and the rest of the royal family, including Juliet.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Because the setting is the early 1950s, the Doctor and the parents talk about homosexuality like it's a horrible disease that must be cured as soon as possible.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: When the doctor tells Pauline's mother he has diagnosed Pauline with "homosexuality," he can barely get the word out.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: John takes this to creepy levels when he climbs into Pauline's bed, then they have sex later, and then follows her train on a bike, screaming about how much he loves her.
  • The Dreaded: Orson Welles...for some reason.
    • Possibly because he had put on numerous Nightmare Fuel radio drama and stage plays, including a version of Dracula with script taken straight from the book, Orson had quite the reputation among young women in this time period. You either thought he was fascinating and sexy, or — the most hideous man alive.
  • Enfant Terrible: Prince Diello.
    Deborah: Although only ten, Diello has so far killed fifty-seven people and shows no desire to stop. It worries me, Charles!
  • Faux Documentary: The "Visit Christchurch!" film that begins the movie.
  • The '50s: The story takes place in 1952-54.
  • Gayngst: To the utmost extreme.
  • Henpecked Husband: Dr. Hulme.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Pauline believes Dr. Hulme is working with the girls against Pauline's mother's plan to separate them, when he's the one who introduced the idea of keeping the girls apart.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Gina, a gypsy girl from Borovnia. (In addition, many former schoolmates of the real Pauline described her as "gypsy-like," with black hair and flashing eyes. Small wonder Pauline chose Gina as her alter-ego.)
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a blood-spattered Pauline and Juliet screaming at passersby for help.
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Pauline Rieper, AKA Paul (for short), Charles (role-playing), Gina (another role-play character and briefly her preferred name), Yvonne (middle name/family nickname), Pauline Parker, after it's discovered that her parents never married, and Hilary Nathan, after being released from prison. (Additionally, Pauline renames her lover from boring ol' John to Nicholas after yet another role-playing character who loves the fictional Gina.)
    • Juliet Hulme, AKA Deborah ("Debórah," her role-playing name), Guilletta (Italian for "Juliet" and Pauline's romantic name for Juliet in her diary), and Anne, as the alias she used after she was released from prison.
  • Ill Girl: Both girls as children, but mainly Juliet.
  • Imagine Spot: The girls imagine very violent things happening to a sanctimonious priest, a smarmy child psychologist, and their parents. Other Imagine Spots have them visiting Borovnia, and they have a spiritual vision of the Fourth World (their version of heaven).
  • In a World...: Read and played with in the trailer, narrated by none other than Don LaFontaine.
  • Irony: The girls concoct the scheme because they are desperate not to be separated—only for them to be arrested immediately, sent to different prisons, and "it was a condition of their release that they never meet again".note 
  • Kubrick Stare: Pauline is very, very good at these.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Dark-haired, shorter, curvier, dramatically pale Pauline in contrast to taller, slimmer, sun-kissed blonde Juliet. Justified, as the actresses were chosen in part for their physical resemblance to their real-life counterparts.
  • Love Makes You Crazy and Evil: Both girls gradually come to embrace the idea that they are "mad" as they become more and more infatuated with each other—and their infatuation eventually drives them to murder.
    • The common belief of the time was that homosexuality was a form of mental illness and a sign of low morals, thus being in love would mean that the girls were literally both "crazy" and "evil." Both sets of parents certainly take this belief to heart, and their interference unwittingly leads to tragedy.
  • Mad Love: It even has its own banner that explodes in blood!
  • Made of Plasticine: The Borovnians. Literally.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Juliet for Pauline, at least initially. (At times Juliet seems clinically manic, gushing effusively about her fantasies, posing dramatically, and possessed of boundless energy.)
  • Mary Sue: In-universe, Empress Deborah and Gina seem to fit all the standard characteristics, especially because both are idealized versions of Juliet and Pauline, respectively.
    Pauline (explaining her fictional characters): "Nicolas has got his eye on Gina, an amazingly beautiful gypsy."
    John (teasing): "Looks a bit like you, Yvonne."note 
  • Murder Is the Best Solution:
    Pauline (journal entry): Anger against Mother boiled up inside me, as it is she who is one of the main obstacles in my path. Suddenly, means of ridding myself of this obstacle occurred to me.
  • Ms. Imagination: Both Pauline and Juliet by quite a bit.
  • New Year's Resolution: Pauline starts 1953 with a resolution to be "more lenient" with others. By 1954, her resolution has darkened to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be dead."
  • One Steve Limit: Zigzagged. Both Juliet's little brother and Pauline's suitor are named Jonathan, but Juliet's brother is more often referred to as "Jonty" and Pauline rechristens her lover "Nicholas."
  • Parental Hypocrisy: When Mrs. Rieper chews out Pauline about sleeping with John and calls her a "cheap little tart", Pauline angrily retorts that she's no better, as Honorah married Pauline's father when she was only a year older than Pauline herself.
  • Parents as People: Despite being seen as a villain keeping her from Juliet, Pauline's mother really does seem to care about what is best for her daughter, but just doesn't know how to handle her. Pauline didn't make it easy for her.
    • In the Director's Cut, stoic Dr. Hulme is shown curling up in an armchair and weeping like a child as he hears his wife and her lover laughing together in bed.
  • Parental Neglect: Juliet's parents left her alone in hospital for five years when she was first sick. Then in the film, when she's diagnosed with tuberculosis on her lungs, her parents simply leave her behind to go on holiday.
  • Parental Obliviousness:
    • Pauline's father thinks the major concern is that the girls don't spend enough time out of doors in the fresh air—ironic, considering what actually happens when they finally go for a walk in the park.
    • Invoked with both sets of parents, who are so concerned that their daughters might be lesbians that it doesn't occur to them that they might be plotting murder.
    • Mrs. Hulme repeatedly insists that "it's all perfectly innocent" when her husband expresses concerns that the girls might be engaging in inappropriate behavior. (Views of lesbians and teen sexuality in the 1950s notwithstanding, a fifteen-year-old girl taking nude photos of herself with the intention of mailing them to Hollywood film producers really is a matter for parental intervention.)
  • Put on a Bus: How Juliet feels when her parents leave her in hospitals for her health while they go on business trips.
  • Real Person Cameo: One of the photos in Pauline's room is the real Juliet Hulme.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: A central theme of the whole movie with Juliet and Pauline.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: They appear to be this in the movie, but Anne Perry insists it was "only" a really intense two-girl friendship. (Pauline doesn't talk to the press.) The actresses were instructed to play the girls as "devoted friends" who were just role-playing love scenes between their favorite characters.
  • Screaming Birth: Juliet enacts one as Empress Deborah giving birth to Prince Diello (a cushion). Pauline is on hand as Emperor Charles assisting the delivery.
    Charles: Deborah... we have a son — and heir.
    Deborah: I shall call him — Diello!
  • Shout-Out: The photo of Orson Welles that floats away on the river is a homage to a scene from The Third Man.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The entire film was shot on location in Christchurch, NZ. They even filmed where the actual murder took place. According to IMDb, it became eerily quiet when they started shooting, so they moved up a few paces until things felt comfortable. That's the actual tea shop in the park; when filming was completed, the tea shop was torn down so that it wouldn't become a Graceland.
    • Even the actual 1950's Christchurch Girls' High School was used, despite the school itself moving from the City Centre to Riccarton in 1986 and the building having become an art gallery. The building was later torn down after being damaged beyond repair in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
    • Exterior shots of Ilam, the Hulmes' home, were filmed at the actual Ilam, including the scenes of Juliet singing on the balcony and greeting Pauline from the bridge. Ilam, once the Christchurch University Dean's residence, is now an events venue, but the exteriors and gardens have not changed much since the time of the murders.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Pauline does a great one to her mother:
    Honora: You're nothing but a cheap little tart!
    Pauline: Well I must take after you, then! (Honora slaps her) You ran off with Dad when you were only seventeen! Nana Parker told me!
    • And Dad was still married at the time!
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: While only peripherally involved in the story, short, stout, Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette Pauline has a tall, blond, glamorous-looking sister.
  • Sock It to Them: The movie ends with a murder committed with a brick in a nylon stocking.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Borovnia.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Pauline and Juliet are fourteen and fifteen at the beginning of the film, sixteen and seventeen by the end.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Pauline is taken to a child psychologist who concludes she's suffering from a mental disorder called "Homosexuality".
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Diello, the young prince of Borovnia, who kills pretty much everyone who isn't his parents.
    • Honorah's death. Violent as it is, the film actually tones it down.
  • Title Drop: During Pauline's poem.
    'Tis indeed a miracle one must feel
    That two such heavenly creatures are real
  • Unfortunate Names: Pauline Rieper especially after what she does to her mother.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • In Real Life, an attempt to mount an Insanity Defense based on the girls' writing, "Fourth World" religion, and perceived homosexuality was practically laughed out of court.
    • In reality, Pauline was described as glamorous by classmates: a "proud beauty" "like a gypsy" with "flashing eyes that would just strike you dead." Far from being ostracized or withdrawn, Pauline was a clever, well-liked Tomboy, while Juliet was considered by her classmates as a snooty Brit with a "perpetual cold" who they believed exaggerated her symptoms for attention.
      • On the other hand, Juliet's teachers fawned over her and overlooked a great deal of her disrespect and arrogance simply because she was English, wealthy, and the daughter of the college dean, as opposed to the film where teachers frequently call out her rude behavior.
    • The real Dr. Bennett was The Shrink, version 2, right down to testifying at length (somewhat incoherently) on the witness stand that the young women were completely bonkers. It didn't fly, his testimony was ripped to shreds by the prosecution, and Pauline and Juliet were convicted. (He ended up a patient in his own hospital less than a year after the trial.)
    • Pauline's classmates point out that the film makes Honorah much more sympathetic than she really was.
    • The "Letter from Old Stew" scene is more bunkum. Pauline was not failing English, but doing well in school and didn't want to leave. Honorah pulled her out because she felt the school was causing her to have pretensions/ambitions above her lowly working-class station. The letter, when it came, questioned Honorah's decision, and was signed not just by Miss Stewart but by Hilda Hulme, Juliet's mother, who was on the school board. Had Jackson stuck to the facts here, it would have gone a long way toward establishing Honorah's real character and Pauline's motive. Since he wanted to make Honorah nicer than she really was, the incident was rewritten to portray her as just a concerned mum.
    • Probably the most significant bending of reality is the ending's claim that a condition of the girls' release from prison was that they never meet again. While the girls were ordered to be kept in separate prisons and not allowed contact as part of their punishment, there was no condition that they could never see one another after their release. As far as anyone knows, they have never met since...but that appears to be voluntary.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Juliet's brother Jonty disappears about halfway through the film. His absence is never explained or remarked upon.note 
  • Your Cheating Heart: Hilda Hulme, a marriage counselor, begins an affair with Walter Perry, one of her clients, and actually moves him into their house, devastating her husband, who's aware of the whole arrangement.
  • Yuri Genre: One of the more disturbing examples, really.

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback