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:: The Rage In Placid Lake

This isn’t a film about something dramatic occurring at the well-known Lake Placid in New York. Instead, it’s an oddball Australian comedy that has to release fresh from winning the Audience Choice Award at the recent Melbourne International Film Festival.

The praise is justified. We observe a teenager, Placid Lake (Ben Lee), who is trying to determine his way in life, from the awkward position he found himself in his very young days of school when he was taunted and ridiculed. Placid’s mother (Miranda Richardson) used to put him in a dress as a way for her son to express his open-mindedness and freedom, unlike other boys. The unconventional behaviour by Placid’s hippy parents didn’t pay attention to the bullying that their son received from other boys. In turn, and far from the carefree, creative young man they were seeking, Placid became “normal” and entered the business world as a worker for an insurance company.

This is part of the intrigue of the film and the film progresses in an apparent dark and strange way. What we consider to be important things in life are trivialised. The “do’s” in life are challenged, ie the notion of earning money and having sex are dealt with interestingly. Accordingly, there are some very humorous moments. In one scene, Placid is offered sex in the workplace by his female co-worker. He declines, so she masturbates in front of him. Placid also walks in on his mother having sex with another woman. His life seems totally messed up. Yet, he is very determined to succeed in life, after the school days bullying, the ineptitude of his parents, the confused thoughts of his long-time friend Gemma (Rose Byrne), and other things that have complicated his life. Gemma does offer some support, but is confused over Placid’s keenness for self-discovery in a mainstream world.

Director Tony McNamara pushes some intelligent and sharp humour as the office workers, Placid’s parents, and Gemma are all caught in their own time capsule it seems. However, everyone seems to bounce off each other well. McNamara shows a knack for darkish humour, but things go a bit deeper than they appear.

For singer-musician Lee, this is his first major film role, and he needs to carry most of the film. He does a pretty good job, despite his inexperience. There is a certain freshness to his performance, in being awkward-looking, yet demonstrating charisma. The other performers are good, although playing Placid’s parents won’t enhance the stature of Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald too much. Christopher Stollery provides some good one-liners as Placid’s boss in the office.

The film is generally well scripted and light-hearted in giving the necessary feel-good thoughts. It is very enjoyable viewing.