The film begins with a rather unsettling scene in which Miss Meadows brutally and without feeling assassinates a paedophile who has tried to lure her into his grimy truck. She’s soon seen weeping over the death of a colleague from cancer, and openly asking a bluebird questions to the bafflement of a neighbour, demonstrating the full range of emotions open to the utterly barking mad. Throughout she dresses like a Mad Men extra and dances about in those shoes, departing every conversation with a ‘Toodle-oo’.
Her sideline, it transpires, is in killing people she thinks deserve it, crooks and loons whose manners do not match up to Miss Meadows’ own finely honed set, by virtue of their shooting up a hot-dog outlet or fiddling kids (a theme throughout). All of this would be enough to send my cynicism beacon into overdrive were it not for what I can only describe as a remarkable performance from Holmes. She is thoroughly believable in the role, which says a lot about her last few years, pulling the film along gaily through facial expressions alone which she changes in a heartbeat, usually following a troubling middle-distance stare which seems to suggest a frightened little girl lies within, thinking furiously.
She’s aided in her efforts by a set of actors who clearly have as much idea as the rest of us what’s going on but are happy just to ride with it. James Badge Dale turns in a pleasing performance as the Sheriff who falls deeply in love with Miss Meadows but soon realises she’s a maniac and has to wrestle with a conflict he probably wasn’t asked about at interview. Callan Mulvey seems to be having fun as Skylar, a sex offender who moves into Miss Meadows’ neighbourhood, and a series of children (primary school teacher, remember) float in and out of the film, never getting in the way and occasionally adding well to the general sense of psychopathy.
Certain scenes stick in the memory, including a uncomfortable tea party round at Skylar’s and one of the odder sex scenes you’ll see in a movie. The direction is well handled by Karen Leigh Hopkins, who also wrote the screenplay and can be congratulated for her efforts in a film that rolls along pleasingly and knocks everything into shape in under an hour and a half.
The message of the movie, that rehabilitation is as good as impossible and vigilantes are our only hope, is a distressing one but only seems to add to the gleeful mania, and if The Purge can exist then so can Miss Meadows. It’s is a preposterous yet likeable movie that each of its participants comes out well from, a little unexpectedly. It certainly suggests Holmes may have emerged from Gold Base with more grown-up projects in mind than, well, Dawson’s Creek, and after what she’s been through that’s no small accomplishment.
Miss Meadows is out on DVD and digital download on 27 July 2015.