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Australia 2003
Directed by
Tony McNamara
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3 stars

The Rage In Placid Lake

Synopsis: Placid Lake is graduating from high school after a lifetime of new-age behavioural programming at the hands of his parents. Hoping that the rebellious act of transforming into a conformist will save him from the risks of his high-flying imagination and bullying schoolmates, he gets a job in insurance. Meanwhile, long-time friend Gemma is convinced Placid is up to something, and considering her own future options.

The Rage In Placid Lake is said to be hilarious in many reviews right across Australia, was the Melbourne International Film Festival audience favourite, and has a fantastic concept and catchy name. So odds are that you will like it more than me. But I can’t help but feel that  the sum of the generally good parts don’t add up to a great deal.

The film is definitely a cut above many Australian comedies. The script is pretty solid and the premise has lots of comic potential. It is a savage and often entertaining commentary on how both conformity and non-conformity can be equally disconnected from reality. But first-time director Tony McNamara hasn’t matched the script’s potential with a consistently creative visual world in which the characters can live and breathe. The vision of the insurance company successfully creates a strange white corporate hell in which Placid’s bizarre colleagues seem perfectly at home, but the rest of the Placid’s world just looks too normal. There are flashes of greatness, like the Doris Day martini sequence, but overall the film is not consistent.

Ben Lee’s Placid does look the part as the unlikely rebel. Yet his deadpan style doesn’t give much emotional weight or range to the character. The ‘rage’ in Placid is kind of insubstantial, to be honest. His unconventionality is meant to be appealing, but he can come across as an arrogant jerk. For example, the positive portrayal of his habit of smooth-talking women into bed for a fling seems odd. Especially when his long-suffering friend Gemma (Rose Byrne) is portrayed as lowering her standards for contemplating a fling of her own later on. Gemma is the unconventional and brilliant thinker who could do anything she sets her mind to, if only she could work out what that might be. Yet Gemma’s story - even the emotional climax of her self-discovery - is only briefly sketched in. It’s a pity, because Rose Byrne’s performance is very good. Garry McDonald and Miranda Richardson give hammily energetic performances as Placid’s hippy parents coming to grips with mid-life crisis and their rebelliously conformist son. They have some great lines, but the tensions between their new-age stupidity and their search for emotional development are hard for the film to resolve successfully.

The union of an interesting concept, script, characters and vision have come together a bit better in films like Love and Other Catastrophes and Children Of The Revolution. The Rage In Placid Lake is definitely OK  even pretty good in parts but I have to say, you could wait for the video.




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