Starring Geoffrey Rush. Rated 14A
First time writer-director Simon Stone is a young Australian actor turned filmmaker who managed to find Henrik Ibsen’s inner Danielle Steele. Perhaps because he put a more faithful adaptation of Ibsen on-stage recently, Stone was also able to talk otherwise reputable English-speaking performers into starring in this telenovela version of a venerable 19th-century play.
The Wild Duck probably wasn’t the best title dreamed up by the Norwegian author, so influential on psychologically minded descendants like Eugene O’Neill and Ingmar Bergman. But Stone’s name change to The Daughter is an early tip-off—along with ominously plinking pianos—to the thudding obviousness of just about everything on display in his oafish update, officially credited as “Inspired by Henrik Ibsen”.
The presumably regretful cast is headed by Geoffrey Rush, as Henry, aging patriarch of a timber family whose mill is closing. This means firing most of the younger men in his small Aussie town, including Oliver (Ewen Leslie), previously enjoying a comfortable life with his dad (a barely utilized Sam Neill), loyal wife (Miranda Otto), and their beloved, lavender-haired teenager, Hedvig (standout Odessa Young). Did I mention that she’s their, ahem, daughter?
The change in financial fortune, and social optics, doesn’t prevent Henry from throwing a big party to celebrate his marriage to a sexy former housekeeper (Anna Torv). Henry’s estranged son Christian (extremely weak link Paul Schneider) returns from the U.S. in time to attend the wedding and hang out with classmate Oliver and wife, who also worked as Henry’s housekeeper, oh, about 17 years earlier. In the play, named after a wounded mallard nursed back to uncertain health, both the patriarch and Hedvig (the only character name retained here) suffer from failing eyesight. Viewers of The Daughter should be so lucky.