CATHERINE Hardwicke has spent much of her career mining the subject of teen angst - in particular the trials and tribulations of adolescent females - with some success, so it's perhaps appropriate that her attention now shifts to include members of a slightly older demographic.
Unfortunately, her latest movie Plush - a psychological thriller about a young rocker in the LA music scene whose rise to stardom is derailed by the sudden death of a band member - is a wildly uneven and ultimately disappointing work that belies the director's solid credentials.
Hardwicke worked with a succession of young actresses and enjoyed both critical (Thirteen, 2003) and commercial (Twilight, 2008) success while riding the crest of a wave, but her more recent work (Red Riding Hood, 2011) has been somewhat underwhelming. Plush is an attempt to rediscover her edgy indie roots, but it falls well short of the mark.
Hayley (Emily Browning) is a wild child and frontwoman for alternative rock band Plush, which comes across as a latter-day version of a 70s new wave band like Blondie. Hayley is also blond and alluring, exuding sexual energy and the sort of onstage personality that could incite riots and attract creepy fans. But just as fame, fortune and Rolling Stone magazine beckon, Hayley's brother Jack (Thomas Dekker), her close songwriting collaborator and a vital cog in the Plush machine, fails to wake up from a drug-induced binge.
Hayley goes into a creative tailspin and loses her mojo, until replacement band member Enzo (Xavier Samuel) takes up the slack and helps her get back on track during a cross-country tour. He wears way too much eyeliner, hovers protectively around her, offering warm words of solace (and a hot bod) along with some songwriting tips. "In order to create you have to embrace the dark side," he whispers knowingly.
The group's tour is over but in true stalker fashion Enzo refuses to stay away. Even more distressing for Hayley, he becomes a fixture at her hillside home - playing with her kids and chugging beers with her husband Carter (Cam Gigandet). The family's routine is further compromised when the regular nanny fails to show.
Her replacement (Frances Fisher) is a tight-lipped Nurse Ratched-type - the kind you wouldn't want to bump into in a dark alley.
The story, by Hardwicke and Arty Nelson, is painfully contrived, with each plot development more predictable than the one before.
An attempt at dangerous eroticism, complete with a few token bondage scenes, goes badly awry and viewers will find it difficult to suppress gasps of surprise - not at some disturbing sex scene, but at how poorly executed the movie is. As a result, there's no rush to see Plush.