Any indie film that stars Mia Wasikowska will always have my utmost attention. But what surprised me was her participation in a film like Judy and Punch, since it is a violent black comedy so soon after her role in Nicolas Pesce‘s Piercing. Nevertheless, Judy and Punch is a lot of fun, as it incisively delves into themes of misogyny, discrimination and public opinion, all within the guise of a Monty Python-esque revenge comedy.
First-time feature director Mirrah Foulkes (who has acted in many films/TV shows as well as made some acclaimed short films) handles the tone shifts far better than I expected — switching from screwball comedy (it is a film that features puppeteers after all) to brutal violence (involving dogs and children) to contemplative drama (on the notions of revenge) with relative ease — while the performances from Wasikowska (lending gravity to Judy) and Damon Herriman (who is a doppelganger for Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam films, is an absolute hoot as Punch) make the experiences very entertaining.
The anachronisms work quite well (characters practicing Tai Chi to a Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire) and a damn funny reference to Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator are the highlights), the production values are stellar across the board (You would never know it was an indie film) and the musical score is amusingly incongruous.
While the humour does conflict with the drama at times and the emotional payoff may not work as well as it should due to the didactic delivery of its message, Judy and Punch is a damn good calling card for director Mirrah Foulkes.