Well behaved women seldom make history, but mischievous women in historical films make for an enjoyable time at the cinema.
One such woman is Phryne Fisher, the 1920s detective sleuth who could come straight out of a Gatsby film. Her investigative and opulent exploits in Melbourne spanned 3 seasons, leaving men lustfully in her wake including fellow Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page).
This time she sashays onto the silver screen with her golden pistol in tow. We’re transported to the back alleys of London, the glamour and glitz of manor ballrooms and the sweeping deserts of Negev as she embarks on a quest to free a young Bedouin girl and solve the mystery of her tribe’s disappearance.
It has all the elements of a classic murder mystery, including a jewel that hides the secret to a family curse, whodunit conversations in the corridor and jazz band accompaniments in swish ballrooms. Never one to sweat under pressure, Miss Fisher leads chase in Palestine in a bedazzled dress, runs across a getaway train in heels and gatecrashes her own memorial service plane. She’s a woman ahead of her time, breaking into crime scenes and shoving her way past anyone determined to stop her. Indiana Jones could very well be her counterpart but for the simmering tension between her and Jack.
At times, the plot hinges on minor conveniences. Even Miss Fisher’s incredible strokes of luck can’t always explain her death defying encounters. Characters point the fingers of blame at each other but the suspects stay in the frame. That’s not discounting the fun additions of John Waters as a cheeky professor, or Jacqueline McKenzie and Rupert Penry-Jones as snooty aristocrats. Even Miriam Margolyes returns, if only to berate her niece for her tomfoolery and the trouble it has gotten her in thus far.
As lavish and as graceful as the leading lady is the big screen adaptation. Audiences will relish in the chic costumes and the stunning landscapes. For the Sydney premiere, the decor of the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace was the perfect backdrop where this cinema-goer and her mother felt like they’d stepped straight out of the film itself.
Given the crowdfunding campaign to kickstart the movie and the international audience reach of 120 territories, it seems fitting that our heroine should warrant her own movie.
Phryne Fisher would expect nothing less.