Review: The Rage in Placid Lake

Posted by: Mark McLeod  //  May 28, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

Placid Lake (Ben Lee) is certainly not your normal teenager. Slapped with the unusual first name of Placid and made to wear women's clothes at a young age to question the societal norms, his experience in school has been anything but positive. Bullied at a young age and throughout high school, Placid is about to finally enter the adult part of his life. Surrounding Placid are his parents Slyvia (Miranda Richardson), a documentarian who focuses on the mating habits of ancient tribes, and Doug (Garry McDonald), a radio DJ and psychologist. His best friend in the world is the beautiful Gemma (Rose Byrne), who's grown up with only a father figure who pushes her to learn all sorts of complex topics, given her above average intelligence level. As graduation approaches, the rebellious Placid unleashes his most daring stunt yet, a documentary about high-school life that is so brutality realistic and shocking that it sends the school and his tormenters into a complete outrage. Rushing away from them, he ends up on the roof and before long ends up falling off the building. In the hospital, restricted to a body cast, he begins to re-evaluate his life and decides that upon his release he will conform to society standards and get a regular old job. Upon his release he buys himself a suit, gets himself the corporate haircut, and gets a job at Icarus Insurance under the tutelage of Joel (Christopher Sollery). Soon Placid finds himself on the fast-track, sharing an office with the sexy Jane (Saskia Smit), a repressed worker who compensates for her lack of humanity with being a sexual predator destined to hunt down all that cross her path. Meanwhile Placid and Gemma's relationship begins to change for the worse as the two become further and further apart. Placid's parents are also disappointed in their son for becoming a conformist and so with his sudden shift in priorities he has lost those who supported him. Can Placid remain happy in his new life or will he realize just whats he's lost. Find out in The Rage in Placid Lake.

Australian director Tony McNamara is behind the lense for The Rage in Placid Lake, a film which had a theatrical release over a year ago in Australia and is just now making its way to screens in North America after stops on the festival circuit. Coming of age movies are a staple of the big screen in all counties, but people in North America have rarely seen a movie like this. The Rage in Placid Lake, not to be confused with the dreadful horror movie Lake Placid, is a well written, extremely biting, and often hilarious look at growing up and dealing with the issues that face school kids and teenagers every day, everywhere in the world. Placid is an unlikely lead character: he's not the jock or the nerd, instead he's just somewhere in the middle. He's invited to parties but by no means is he in the in-crowd. He's unique and different, so when the film's main twist occurs, it takes us as the audience by surprise as we watch him slip from being a rebellious teen with hopes of flyfishing in Montana to the 9 to 5 clock-puncher. McNamara tells his story with a sharpness to it, where we can't help but feel as if we know Placid. He's so likeable and charming that it's hard not to root for whatever choices he makes.

A humongous part of this film's success is because of Australian musician Ben Lee, who makes his acting debut as the quirky and unique Placid Lake. Lee, best known to Aussie audiences as a singer/songwriter, proves he has the acting chops with his strong comedic timing, likability, and natural talent. Lee isn't the typical Hollywood actor and has a unique look to him, but he captures the audience's heart from the first frame forward and makes it so audiences can't help but root for him. Bringing over the comedic and powerful aspects of his song-writing to his acting, this makes Lee one to watch for, should he choose to do any more feature films. Also impressive is Rose Byrne as Gemma, an actress who I hadn't seen before and hope to see in more roles after her moving and engaging performance as Gemma, Placid's best friend and confident. Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald also stand out as his parents, and Christopher Sollery and Saskia Smit play two of Placid's co-workers.

The Rage in Placid Lake is a refreshing small motion picture with a big heart and a number of hilarious moments. Sharp dialogue, witty satire, and an excellent star-making performance from Ben Lee make this movie worth seeing. I for one am glad TVA Films (in Canada) and Film Movement (in the US) have decided to give this film a small theatrical run in most major cities. Here's hoping audiences will go out and discover it. If you miss your chance to see this film, or you don't get a chance due to where you live, please do yourself a favour and track it down when it hits video store shelves later in the year. The Rage in Placid Lake is a small but charming motion picture that entertains from start to finish; a hidden gem that will likely get overlooked given the megaplex syndrome currently in place in North America.

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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