Lost and Delirious

         LOST AND DELIRIOUS is a superlative film about the trials and
 tribulations of young woman at an all-girls boarding school adapted
 from Susan Swan's novel
The Wives of Bath. The film marks another
 notch in the fine career of director Léa Pool, who scored last with

         Rarely has a filmmaker captured the essence of those moments
 between adolescence and adulthood with the skill and sensitivity Pool
 does. She is ably assisted by her gifted cast, headed by Mischa Barton
 as the narrator Mary Bradford, newcomer Jessica Paré as a young woman
 struggling with her emotions and her desire to please her parents and,
 most particularly, by Piper Perabo as the loose cannon bad girl whose
 antics bring about seismic changes in the lives of those around her.

         While the film is ostensibly set in the present day, there's an
 old-fashioned feel to it that lends a timelessness to the plot, which
 essentially boils down to girl loves girl, girl loses girl, girl cannot cope.
 That distillation doesn't capture the delicate nuances in the
 performances or the structure of Judith Thompson's superb screenplay.

         Mary, still coping with the death of her mother and her father's
 remarriage, is shipped off to boarding school where she ends up
 rooming with rich girl Victoria 'Tori' Clark (Paré) and the rebellious
 Pauline 'Paulie' Oster (Perabo). While they eschew labels and even
 derogatorily speculate on the sexuality of two of their teachers, Tori
 and Paulie have fallen deeply in love and have made plans for a future.
 Mary is at first confused by their closeness, then gradually comes
 to accept it. When the girls are caught together by Tori's younger
 sister, Tori freaks and calls an end to their relationship, fearful of
 being cut off from her wealthy parents. For Paulie, that is unbearable
 and she slowly declines into madness, deflecting all attempts to help
 her by the school's headmistress (the wonderful Jackie Burroughs)
 and a math teacher (Mimi Kuzyk), with ultimately tragic results.

         Pool, directing with a sure hand, elicits strong work from her cast.
 Newcomer Paré is terrific as the confused and timid Tori while Barton
 skillfully navigates the journey from naivete to self-acceptance. The
 real surprise, though, is Perabo. I was hardly impressed with her
 abilities based on her work in
COYOTE UGLY and the dreadful
 offers up a magnificent turn, full of abandon and skill. She takes
 scenes that in lesser hands could be deemed somewhat ridiculous
 and invests themwith such fortitude and conviction she overcomes
 whatever minor flaws there are in her character. It is a powerful
 performance and ranks as one of the best in her career.

         The film, shot on location in Quebec, looks beautiful as well,
 thanks to Pierre Gill's superb lensing and the production design of
 Serge Bureau. Simply put,
LOST AND DELIRIOUS is a minor masterpiece.

                                 Rating:                 A-  
MPAA Rating:        R for strong sexual content
                                                         involving teens, and language
Running time:       103 mins.          
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.