Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Lovely Rita (2001)

A recent triumph at Cannes, where it was heralded as the European Discovery of the Year, Jessica Hausner's first feature develops her preoccupation with the themes of loneliness and indifference.

Shot on digital video and featuring amateur actors, Hausner's tale of a disaffected Catholic teenage girl may seem low-key and bland compared to Catherine Breillat's more forceful and graphic "A Ma Soeur", but it is a well-judged and sensitive portrayal of a pressured, superficial upbringing.

Uncertainly moving between childhood and womanhood, Rita (Osika) is a 15-year-old living in a Vienna suburb with her strict Catholic parents. Disliked by her schoolmates, rude to teachers, and misunderstood by her parents, the wilfully rebellious Rita prefers to spend her time with a younger schoolboy - who she enlists to lose her virginity. When this fails, she seeks the attention of the local bus driver. Only succeeding in increasing her isolation, Rita then makes an unexpected move.

Free of melodramatic histrionics, Hausner stays firm with her naturalistic approach, an uncomfortable atmosphere of subdued tensions, and familial artifice as Rita negotiates all manner of forced family rituals - particularly on her father's birthday. Such downplay makes Rita's eventual devastating action all the more shocking - more so as it could be straight from the news.

While not the most exhilarating 80 minutes, this is a movie that will find much identification with anyone whose teenage years were remotely angst ridden, with Hausner capturing the simmering tensions of suburban life with assured ease.

In German with English subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Jessica Hausner

Writer: Jessica Hausner

Stars: Barbara Osika, Christoph Bauer, Petr Fiala, Wolfgang Kostal, Karina Brandlmayer

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Length: 79 minutes

Cinema: 28 December 2001

Country: Austria

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