The Rage in Placid Lake written and directed by Tony McNamara, produced by Marian Macgowan, with Ben Lee, Miranda Richardson, Rose Byrne and Garry McDonald. 89 minutes. A Rapacious Pictures production, a TVA Films release. Opens Friday (May 28). For venues and times, see Movie Reviews, page 97. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Ben Lee makes a great John Cusack . He's got the same off-kilter cuteness, the same insouciant, cocky patter, the same doe-eyed vulnerability that Cusack had early in his career. He makes the perfect protagonist for The Rage In Placid Lake, which resembles a funnier, more adult and convoluted remake of Cusack's 1989 teen flick Say Anything, with the conflicts cranked up to cartoon pitch.
Lee plays Placid Lake, a charming outsider who decides, after plummeting from his high school roof as the result of a graduation-day prank, to turn his life around. Should he try to change to please others, or should he just be himself? Which route will win the heart of Gemma (Rose Byrne), his brilliant best friend?
You pretty much know where the story's going to end up, but the balls-out, slapstick energy with which the supporting cast gets it there is unexpected and great.
Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald play his hippy parents, who with a merry heartlessness worthy of AbFab put him in a dress the first day of kindergarten to "challenge the other children's notions of gender."
A deliciously deadpan Christopher Stollery oozes despair as the mentor who helps him fit in at the Brazilesque insurance company where he works. All the doomed adults in the film manage to be both surreal and dead on; Lee's chipper, wide-eyed acceptance makes them funny.
Lee learns, as Cusack did before him, that it's best just to be yourself. So what if it's a cliché? It's funny cuz it's true.