The Rage in Placid Lake Movie Review

Placid Lake (Ben Lee) is a (regrettably named) young man who has just graduated from preparatory school and thoroughly embarrassed his self-seeking hippie parents, Doug (Garry McDonald) and Sylvia Lake (Miranda Richardson), his tyrannical classmates and hypocritical teachers. Convinced that he can only find himself in the wilds of Montana (he lives in Australia), Placid makes a schmaltzy student film (Life is Super Dooper) about the awe-inspiring atmosphere of friendliness at his school and it nets him a coveted $10,000 prize check. With the money, he can now leave the small world he's always known and venture to exciting, foreign locales. Unfortunately, there is a rage inside Placid Lake - a rage that compels him to recreate his award winning film for its debut screening. The Life is Super Dooper shown at the awards ceremony is a B&W expose consisting of hidden camera footage of classmates beating each other up, teachers cursing about their charges, and Placid's parent's internal strife over his mother's lesbian affair. The audience is shocked, and Placid winds up flying off the roof of the school. Lying in a full body cast for months, Placid emerges with a plan for the ultimate act of rebellion: being normal.

The Rage in Placid Lake is writer/director Tony McNamara's debut film and it's both a wildly entertaining and heartfelt film. McNamara comes from a theatre background and we hear it in the clever and witty dialogue. While the film is not fast paced, it moves along congenially and never pauses long enough to become bogged down in the sentimentality that smoothes out its rougher edges -- it's a poignant film with a young, brash attitude.

Placid's plan to go normal is, naturally, most upsetting to his freewheeling parents played with wonderful abandon by Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game, The Hours) and Garry McDonald (Moulin Rouge, Rabbit-Proof Fence). (Sylvia and Doug Lake make Bernie and Roz Focker of Meet the Fockers look like amateurs.) When he gets a job working at the Icarus Insurance Company they assume he's either on drugs (not a bad thing necessarily) or he's trying to aggravate them. His best friend Gemma (Rose Byrne from Star Wars: Episode II and Wicker Park), a genius who snacks on crayons, is convinced that this latest permutation of Placid's rebellion is simply a complicated charade that will end with yet another outrageous stunt. The joke is that it isn't a stunt; Placid really thinks that putting on a suit, asking his barber to cut his hair like George W. Bush's, working as a "drone" in a large corporation and hanging out with the people he hates will make him normal, will make him happy and alleviate the rage.

The Rage in Placid Lake has been called the Australian Napoleon Dynamite and it shares a dorky, idiosyncratic sense of humor with that film. But The Rage in Placid Lake is a deeper motion picture; it isn't a long character sketch like Napoleon Dynamite but a contemplative story of character development. McNamara's script does have its faults. Sometimes the preponderance of raunchy humor becomes a bit uncomfortable and several of the more outlandish sequences feel, well, outlandish. But these are trivial quibbles. The acting is fantastic: Ben Lee, of the Oz indie rock band Noise Addict and ex-boyfriend to Claire Danes (who makes a cameo), is perfect as the worldly but weird Placid. His Jim Kerr meets Roddy McDowall look is as expressive as it is charming. Byrne is engaging and lovely, and Christopher Stollery, playing Joel, Placid's ulcerous boss, is brilliant.

A brazen, mischievous look at rebellion, The Rage in Placid Lake indulgently encapsulates, in a fittingly haphazard manner, the trials and tribulations we all face in finding ourselves.

The rage starts with the moped.

Comments

The Rage in Placid Lake Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2003

Advertisement

More Ben Lee

Ben Lee - Awake Is The New Sleep

Ben LeeAwake Is The New SleepAlbum ReviewNew WestIt seems the majority like their singer-songwriters plain and reasonably upbeat, if the appetite for James Blunt and...

Advertisement