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Despite the misleading title, The Rage in Placid Lake is not some ropey horror film sequel about teenagers being chomped to death by a malformed alligator. It is a semi-satirical, light-hearted but clever coming-of-age comedy following the exploits of the cruelly called Placid Lake. Placid did not have a 'conventional' upbringing. His parents are two of the most over-the-top, but yet entirely believable hippies ever committed to celluloid. Their 'new age' ways of kid rearing topics young Placid to humiliation time and time again, but un be known to him, give him an inner wisdom and strength to deal with life's tiny problems. Unfortunately, Placid doesn't concern himself with life's tiny problems, he rises above them. Placid leaves school and starts to worry about life's bigger problems, such as what to do with his life. Without giving away too much of the story, Plaicd formulates a plan which involves re-inventing himself in the quest to fit in, lead a conventional life and annoy the hell out of his parents in the process. Of course Placid is far from conventional and it seems the harder he tries to be 'normal' the greater the challenge becomes. The gags in this movie are a mix of satirical jibes at the modern society we live in, observational humor about the trials of growing up, and some nice old fashioned slapstick that the Aussies do so well.Ultimately, this movie is a nice coming of age tale of a young boy coming to terms with the globe and himself. The acting is fantastic, Ben Lee is entirely convincing as the dead-pan and slightly unhinged Placid. His parents are over-the-top caricatures, but do a splendid job of convincing us just how well meaning (but entirely mad) they are. Rose Bryne is wonderful as Placid's foil/love interest/best friend/sole mate, and really doesn't receive the screen time she really deserves. There a plenty of smaller hero parts which also stand out, all contributing to this wacky, but believable film. This is a movie for anyone who ever felt they didn't quite fit in, or anyone who didn't wish to fit in. 8.5/10
When Placid Lake was a tiny boy, his mother sent him to school wearing a dress, just so he should experience sexuality from a various mission of view. As a result, he had the snot punched out of him and for years is constantly the victim of bullies, though he found a soul-mate in the nerdy/studious Gemma. Gemma loses her mother at 8 and her father, not quite sure how to deal with children, wants her to be a scientist. Years pass - Placid still lives with his Mum and Dad, ageing hippies with an eccentric outlook on the globe and is about to finish school. Placid's concept of rebellion is to create a prize winning video of school life which will net him $10,000 and support him achieve his dream of fishing in Montana. At the official screening which turns out to be a tiny disasterous he falls from the school roof and undergoes a life change. This is a quirky "coming of age" flick - with a relatively unknown cast (to those outside Australia). Ben Lee in the game role is well cast as the slightly nerdy but clever Placid, Rose Byrne's Gemma is terrific and Garry McDonald and Miranda Richardson as Placid's hippy parents are brilliant. Take the time to see this movie - it's worth it!
I can't trust I didn't hear about this movie when it was released. I gotta have missed The Film Present that particular week. I saw the DVD on the shelf of my local video shop, while it was in the Fresh Releases section. I saw the cover, loved the word-play in the title, and, thinking it was American, I said myself I would receive it out when it gets moved to the weekly section.I saw it, in the weekly section, some time later, and I read the blurb on the back and thought, 'that sounds really interesting, I'll receive it out someday'. Then last week, I picked it up again, and noticed the Australian Movie Finance Corporation called on the back. I was in. I hired it, took it home, and loved each minute.From the first scene, 'The Rage in Placid Lake' sets itself up to be taken only semi-seriously. The parents of Placid Lake, our hero, are, as his name would suggest, extreme Fresh Agers. We first meet Placid at basic school, where his mother drops him off in a dress, admonishing him to challenge the another children's pre-conceived notions of sexuality. Between flashbacks to his childhood, the movie follows Placid's transition from school to work, which is fraught with stresses. Having failed to achieve happiness following his parents' advice, Placid takes a fresh tack: he gets his hair slash like George W. Bush, buys a suit, and lands a job with an insurance company. All of which is most distressing to his greatest mate Gemma, and his parents, who go to nice lengths to shake him out of this Capitalist madness.Writer and Director Tony McNamara has worked primarily in theatre, and has also written for television, including Southern Star's superb 'The Secret Life of Us'. His background in the theatre, however, lends this movie a very intimate and human touch. He had originally thought of this storyline as a play, but rightly judged it to be more suited to film, and made adjustments accordingly. The effect is a movie that stands out as something fresh, something that takes old concepts and stereotypes, and employs them to nice effect.While the characters in this movie can be described as caricatures, Placid's adventure into adulthoodhis discovery of himself and of his relationshipsresonates with such humanity that the suspension of disbelief is no effort. The pathos with which the characters are written boldly emphasises McNamara's assertion that we gotta be real to ourselves.The most remarkable aspect of this film, however, remains the sad fact that so several folks have seen it or even heard about it. It is an example of the superb movies being produced in this country, and highlights the miserable plight of Australian filmmakers, overshadowed by the monstrous marketing ploys of their American counterparts. 'The Rage in Placid Lake' may not quite be as noteworthy in the history of Australian movie as 'Jedda' or 'Mad Max' or 'Romper Stomper', but it makes a profound statement about humanity that sits somewhat uncomfortably in a globe of Gratis Trade Agreements and 'Wars on Terror'. What's more, it makes that statement beautifully.
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