Dir: Tony McNamara. Australia. 2002. 90mins.
Let's get some misassumptions about this comedy feature debut from writer/director McNamara and Australian rockstar/actor Ben Lee out of the way. Firstly, it is not related to Fox's 1999 crocodile feature Lake Placid. And secondly, lead character Placid Lake (played by Lee himself) displays none of the rage signposted in the title. It's a shame, because rage might have added something to this rambling modern fable, about an alienated teen who views the world with bemused alienation and lurking dread, other than unconvincingly heightened comic reality. Lee's acting debut may spark interest at home, when the film is released by Palace Films on about 40 screens on Aug 28 but the general outlook is not promising.
Labelled a freak and a 'pooftah' throughout his school days, geeky Placid has accepted regular playground beatings since the day his self-absorbed hippy dippy parents (Richardson and McDonald) sent him to school in a dress - to challenge "preconceived notions of sexuality". Not that sex is the problem for Placid, now in his final days at high school. Girls have been bedded, seduced by his clever talk; though he has a strictly platonic relationship with pretty soulmate Gemma (Byrne), equally Mensa-bright, alienated from her teacher father's expectations for her future in science.
At Prize-giving Evening, Placid screens a movie expose of school life, before being chased by bullies, making swallow dive from a balcony and breaking every bone in his body. During an incredibly swift recovery in hospital, he decides to stop fighting the system. Self-help books, a smart suit and a George W Bush haircut later, he wins a junior position with a large (and unconvincing) insurance company, but his doomed attempts at 'normality' are constantly undermined by his sharp sense of the ridiculous behaviour of all around him.
McNamara, a respected playwright, has developed his screenplay from an earlier work, The Cafe Latte Kid, for the Sydney stage. As such there is a lingering theatricality to dialogue, character and events which works against the film's credibility.
Lee has never acted before and it shows. He looks exactly right and clearly sympathises with Placid's outsider disconnection, but is tested by the formalised dialogue and delivers his lines at too slow and unvarying a pace. If only he had some of the title's promised rage. Still, Richardson, as Placid's hippy mum, is good, familiar value
Prod co: Rapacious Pictures
Aust/NZ dist: Palace Films
Int'l sales: Moviehouse
Prod: Marian Macgowan
Cinematography: Ellery Ryan
Prod des: Roger Ford
Ed: Lee Smith
Music: Cezary Skubiszewski
Main cast: Ben Lee, Miranda Richardson, Rose Byrne, Garry McDonald