GenreComedy, Drama ScreenplayJane Campion, Gerard Lee CountryAustralia
Release dateSeptember 28, 1989 (1989-09-28) (AU)
October 6, 1989 (1989-10-06) (NY Film Festival) WriterGerard Lee (screenplay), Jane Campion (screenplay), Jane Campion (original story idea) Initial releaseSeptember 28, 1989 (Australia) CastGenevieve Lemon (Dawn 'Sweetie'), Karen Colston (Kay), Tom Lycos (Louis), Jon Darling (Gordon), Dorothy Barry (Flo) Similar moviesAugust: Osage County, Thirteen, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Blue Valentine, The Past, The Ref
Sweetie 1989 trailer
Sweetie is an 1989 Australian drama film directed by Jane Campion, and starring Genevieve Lemon, Karen Colston, Tom Lycos, and Jon Darling. Co-written by Campion and Gerard Lee, the film documents the contentious relationship between a twenty-something year old, her family, and her emotionally unstable sister. It was Jane Campion's first feature film. It was entered into the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.
The film focuses on Kay's relationships with her boyfriend Louis, her parents and her emotionally unhealthy sister, Sweetie. Kay is quiet and superstitious, loving Louis because of the words of a fortune teller and experiencing deep foreboding towards a tree he attempted to plant in their yard. Sweetie, from Kay's perspective, is selfish in her severe mental illness. Kay's father chooses to ignore most of the erratic, childish behavior (though she has been hospitalized before) because he loves her as a little girl. Throughout, there are flashbacks of Sweetie dancing, singing and performing small, circus-like tricks with his assistance; he wants the family to remain close and dislikes when Kay acts enraged with Sweetie. The mother admits he indulges her. Louis, however, has found some freedom from his increasingly disconnected relationship with Kay because Sweetie lives uninhibited, with vigor and emotion (though extreme). Throughout, Sweetie's physically destructive nature (ruining Kay's clothes, breaking furniture) reflects the inner disruption she has caused her family. After a series of circular fights (variable rage and delusions, her family's forgiveness, proceeded by her sweetness and fun persona), she finally overextends the limit, stripping off her clothes, painting her body black and bouncing in her childhood tree house. Though her family begs her to come down, she refuses, continuing teasing, tormenting and shaking the fort until it falls from the tree, injuring her mother and killing Sweetie. The family appears resolved, no longer scattered. They no longer feel manipulated and agitated by her presence. However, the best of Sweetie's personality persists, as Kay and her parents maintain an image of her in her most accurate form, that of a little girl.
Geneviève Lemon - Dawn aka Sweetie
Karen Colston - Kay
Tom Lycos - Louis
Jon Darling - Gordon
Dorothy Barry - Flo
Michael Lake - Bob
Andre Pataczek - Clayton
Jean Hadgraft - Mrs. Schneller
Paul Livingston - Teddy Schneller
Louise Fox - Cheryl
Ann Merchant - Paula
Robyn Frank - Ruth (as Robin Frank)
Bronwyn Morgan - Sue
Sean Fennell - Boy clerk
Sean Callinan - Simboo
Jane Campion wanted to make a low budget contemporary feature. She came up with the character and she and Gerard Lee started writing in February 1987 and finished in May.
Release and reception
In Australian Film, 1978-1994 it is described as 'a ghastly parody of the tyranny of family life'.
The DVD version, released by the Criterion Collection includes three of Campion's earlier short films.
Sweetie grossed $337,680 at the box office in Australia.