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Reviewed by
Cynthia Karena

Synopsis: Teenager Placid Lake (Ben Lee) has hippy parents (Garry MacDonald and Miranda Richardson). Ever since his mother put him in a dress and sent him to school to challenge views of sexuality, the school bullies have picked on him. A graduation joke lands Placid in hospital, where he has time to think about his life. He can’t see the sense in following his parents’ bohemian lifestyle, and decides he needs to fit in with society by chasing happiness in the corporate world. His best friend Gemma (Rose Byrne) just can’t understand what’s going on, and the two seem to be drifting apart.

Tony McNamara’s debut film is outstanding. His excellent writing and directorial skills, as well as Lee’s fabulous debut performance, make this an amazing movie. The Rage In Placid Lake gives us Placid’s unique view of the world, which happens to be original, funny, insightful and witty. This film is a sharp satire on life and sends up societal codes of behaviour beautifully. Schools, teachers, corporations, hippies, friendships, parents – nothing is spared in the name of comedic revelation.

Placid has talents. His graduation movies are hilarious. And there’s a little of Revenge of the Nerds in that Placid, the school nerd, has a great method of talking girls into sleeping with him. In the corporate world, Placid is smart enough to talk-the-talk and get into the fast track program, much to the shock of a hard-working longtime employee who expected success to be his.

This film has an amazingly strong cast. Rock star Ben Lee’s debut performance is so good, that I’m wondering if the guy is like that in real life. Lee's girlfriend Claire Danes makes a fleeting cameo appearance. Byrne is also great in her role as Placid’s best friend, Gemma; who has her own set of problems. She has a dominating father who, aware of his daughter’s intelligence, has already mapped out her life starting with a science degree at uni. He puts pressure on Gemma with his great expectations of her becoming a famous a scientist, and she feels railroaded into something she may not want to do. It’s Placid’s story, but Gemma is also trying to sort out her life. Byrne has proven that she can play a diverse range of roles (see Two Hands, The Goddess of 1967 , which won Byrne the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Venice Film Festival), The Night We Called It a Day). Here, she can do angst, and slip seamlessly back into comedy.

Richardson and MacDonald are hilarious as Placid’s self-centred hippy parents who can only talk in new age lingo, rather than actually communicate or relate to Placid and his problems. When Placid gets beaten up, they spout off glib self-help statements and tell him to look for the positives, or to treat it as a learning experience. They could have easily hammed it up, yet hit the mark in sending up the flaky new ageists without overdoing it.

The Rage In Placid Lake is one of the best Australian films around at the moment. Not only is it outrageously funny, but it has a smart script with a point.




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