By Matthew Turner
Five out of Five stars
Smartly acted and packed full of quotable lines and offbeat moments, this is a quirky comedy that's destined for cult status.
The first thing to say about The Rage In Placid Lake is that it bears absolutely no relation to croc schlock horror flick Lake Placid - instead it's a quirky Australian coming-of-age comedy, written and directed by Tony McNamara. It was an audience hit at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2003, so it's pleasing to see that it's finally getting the theatrical release it deserves, as it's quite possibly one of the best films of the year.
Hippy Parents Ruin Life And Trigger Rebellion
Musician Ben Lee plays Australian teen Placid Lake, who's been raised by his hippy parents (Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald) to always challenge people's perceptions.
Unfortunately, they do this by taking him to school in a dress as a young boy, setting him up for a lifetime of bullying. After taking his revenge via the medium of a student film and winding up in hospital as a result, Placid decides to change his life, so he rebels against his parents by taking a job in an insurance company.
On top of this, he finds himself developing feelings for his childhood best friend Gemma (Rose Byrne), who's belatedly going through a mini-rebellion of her own.
The performances are excellent. Lee makes an engagingly laid-back lead and a bespectacled Rose Byrne is adorable as the geeky girl-next-door. She even has the original 1970s TV show Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond, who was also a Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) for a dad, that's how cool she is.
There's also terrific support from both Christopher Stollery as Placid's unconventional boss and Saskia Smit as his icy blonde colleague with a penchant for no-strings sex in the stationery cupboard. However, the stand-outs are Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald, who deliver pitch-perfect comic performances and steal every scene as Placid's drugged-up parents - the scene where they finally stand up for Placid is one of the film's many highlights.
Packed Full Of Quotable Lines And Quirky Moments
The film is packed full of quotable lines and off-the-wall moments, from Placid demanding a George Bush haircut to his repeated confrontations with the school bullies. It's also extremely funny - other highlights include Placid's 'Sooper Dooper' student film; the conversation between Placid and a girl at a party who's angry at him for having previously 'tricked' her into having sex with him (by listening to her); and Gemma's manipulation of her own would-be suitor.
There's even a blink-and-you'll miss it cameo by Claire Danes - the reason being that Danes and Lee were dating at the time, but it's still a suitably weird moment.
To be fair, like most cult films, The Rage In Placid Lake might not be to everyone's taste, as it's unashamedly quirky, but it's well worth checking out if you like that sort of thing. Great soundtrack too. Highly recommended.
--Mathew Turner/ View London - Review
November 18, 2003
Bottom line: Polished and dark, but upbeat.
By Sheri Linden
Singer-songwriter Ben Lee is the title character in "The Rage in Placid Lake," a precocious oddball who, in a misguided attempt to fit in and make his life easier, decides to go straight. Taking satiric aim at a familiar target, conformity, Australian playwright Tony McNamara's film debut is by turns incisive and broad. Polished and dark but upbeat, the less-than-satisfying comedy from Showtime Australia had its North American premiere as a competition title at the AFI Fest.
Placid is raised in upper-middle-class suburbia by impossibly self-absorbed New Age parents (Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald) who are blind to the beatings he endures for being different. A high school graduation-night confrontation with his usual tormentors leaves Placid in traction, every bone in his body broken. Once recovered, he embarks on a new way of life, cutting his hair, donning suit and tie and promptly getting himself hired at Icarus Insurance, much to the horror of his free-spirit folks. Increasingly troubled by his new direction is lifelong friend Gemma (Rose Byrne), a science whiz who's as smart as Placid but has always played by the rules.
Loosely based on one of McNamara's stage works, the film has a striking widescreen look on a budget, its stylized interiors especially effective in the blank surfaces of the Icarus offices. The workplace goings-on are an absurdist version of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Under the wing of his unhappy boss (Christopher Stollery), Placid rises to the Fast Track program, where ambitious Jane (Saskia Smit) believes in supply-room quickies to relieve tension. Claire Danes cameos as an admiring colleague.
McNamara doesn't seem quite sure about where he's going once he's made his points, so he makes them repeatedly, especially regarding the horridly wishy-washy Lakes, thankless characters that are nonetheless well played by Richardson and McDonald. In his film debut, Lee is a believably charming cad. But despite his and Byrne's likable performances, their characters' latent romance never quite matters in the way it's intended.
--Sheri Linden/ Hollywood Reporter - Review