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|The Rage in Placid Lake
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr Tony McNamara
with Ben Lee, Rose Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Garry McDonald, Nicholas Hammond, Christopher Stollery, Saskia Smit, Francis McMahon, Nathaniel Dean, Toby Schmitz, Socratis Otto, Jesse Spence
release Australia 28.Aug.03,
03/Australia Showtime 1h29
Heads in the clouds: Byrne and Lee
A general refusal to play the movie game is the strongest thing about McNamara's low-key Australian comedy. There's an amusingly askance approach to the whole coming-of-age process that keeps us engaged with the characters, even though it's both predictable and slightly too understated.
Placid Lake (Lee) is a nerdy teen who's almost pathologically misunderstood. That he constantly challenges everyone's preconceptions doesn't help. This attitude comes straight from his parents (Richardson and McDonald), flower children who could be a bit too progressive for their son's good. The only person at school who gets him is Gemma (Byrne), but they're more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend. So Placid decides to reinvent himself as a fully conformed member of society with a job in insurance. Which of course upsets everyone around him.
The script is full of that typical Aussie humour--both smart and absurd, blackly hilarious and sharply astute. As a film about subverting and/or meeting parental and societal expectations, the film revels in surprising us as an audience with its nutty plot turns, surprising characters and all sorts of twisted personality details. The cast grabs hold of this and runs with it, giving these quirky people an authentic desperation we identify with. When Placid produces his outrageously line-towing Sooper Dooper student film, we can understand his inner frustration ("Leni Riefenstahl would've been proud!"), and we can also cheer when he memorably drops the other shoe.
The scene-stealing roles belong to Richardson and McDonald, who wonderfully wrap their parental disappointment in drug-addled oblivion. And Stollery is terrific as Placid's dark horse of a boss. But the film belongs to Lee and Byrne, and they're wonderful at the centre, never betraying their confused characters with Hollywood characterisations. Their irritation at the way their friendship refuses to progress to anything else is almost uncomfortably authentic, as is their desire to rid themselves of their pesky virginity. (Dawson's Creek wishes it could've dealt with these topics in such an astute way!) Sure, we know exactly where this film is going, but there's plenty of charm to get us there with a smile on our faces.
|vanessa-rose, australia: “This is a character-driven story about breaking away from the mould that you were born with and trying to fit into a world that is different from every fiber in your body. Writer-director McNamara’s heavy influence from his theatre days is evident in the sharp dialogue that is a vast contrast from the verbal dribble that is present in many films being released these days. Ben Lee’s portrayal as Placid Lake, as a school nerd crossed with James Bond, has been executed flawlessly, to the degree that you genuinely don’t know whether to pity Placid for his misfortune or to dislike him for his manipulative ways. Rose Byrne’s performance as the confused and mildly neurotic Gemma adds to the film's strength. The film is loaded with dry sarcasm, oddball characters and the notion of the trials and tribulations of coming to age. Has this notion been overused time and time again? Perhaps, yet McNamara pulls it off with wit and dark humor that is guaranteed to entice viewers for a second viewing.”
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