Patrick White’s novel “The Eye of the Storm” is the only Australian book honored with a Nobel Prize for literature, and it is perhaps the novel’s intimidating reputation—and dense prose—that has kept filmmakers away for almost forty years.
The action centers around socialite Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling), the terminally ill matriarch of the Hunter family. On her deathbed she lives life as she always has, controlling and manipulating everyone around her. That includes her nurses (one of whom is played by the director Fred Schepisi’s daughter, Alexandra), a flamboyant housekeeper and her two sycophantic kids, the lecherous stage star Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and down-on-her-luck princess Dorothy (Judy Davis). Elizabeth has decided to dictate the terms of her passing, Basil has decided to try and bed younger women and Dorothy wants to et her hands on some much needed cash.
There’s a taste of “King Lear” in “The Eye of the Storm.” The similarities in the family dynamic are obvious, but beyond that, there is a theatricality to the movie which works well for the material. Normally I would find the movie’s monologues and posturing distracting, but it is a pleasure to watch Rush, Davis and Rampling clearly relishing the opportunity to immerse themselves in Patrick White’s world.