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Down With The System
by Scott Tunstall

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Green with envy.

Green with envy.
I've always been leery of musicians testing out their acting chops. Being an entertainer or a performer can encompass many areas. Technically, a mime is an entertainer, but I doubt Scorsese or P.T. Anderson is planning on casting one in their next film. Sure, John Malkovich made the transition to puppeteering, but I chalk that up to a one in a million shot. Wink, wink. At any rate, many singers have thrown their hats into the acting ring with mixed results. Mick Jagger and James Brown were laughable. Tupac and Cher were naturals. Everyone from Elvis to Justin Timberlake has been cast in multiple movie roles in hopes of strengthening their star power. Australian singer/songwriter Ben Lee has made one film:

THE RAGE IN PLACID LAKE - 2003

Lee plays the 
BFFs.

BFFs.
titular character, Placid Lake, an odd youngster prone to abuse from bullies and defying authority. His one friend in the world is Gemma, the genius girl next door. Placid and Gemma are both graduating from high school and unsure of what their futures hold. Placid's hippie parents prefer their son to carry on the family tradition of non-conformity. Gemma's protective father wants his brilliant daughter to attend university.

Placid has been accused of being fearless, so in order to alter this perception he performs the ultimate act of rebellion by accepting a job at an insurance firm. His plan is to become a "normal" person. On the fast track to corporate servitude, Placid begins to change for the worse, confusing and angering his parents and Gemma. Will he become 
More than friends?

More than friends?
another casualty of the system or will he regain his free-spirited nature?

Ben Lee, who never acted before or since, delivers a credible performance in this eccentric comedy. Placid is your typical adolescent searching for direction, but Lee gives the character a jolt of originality. Smart and witty, Placid hides behind his humor and buries his fears deep inside. He presents a false bravado to help cope with the loneliness of feeling out of place in the world.

His foray into the insurance game is an attempt to discover where he belongs. Emotionally abandoned by his parents and rejected by Gemma, Placid embraces the camaraderie and security of a suit and tie existence. However, sleeping with the enemy exposes a cold and uncaring life more phony than one he 
The other woman.

The other woman.
left behind. Adhering to rules and regulations proves to be a suffocating decision certain to strip him of his uniqueness.

Writer/Director Tony McNamara unleashes a sneak attack on the corporate machine. I would place this film in the same category as NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE and JUNO. All are me-against-the-world stories that rely on off-center lead characters who must find a comfortable niche they can call their own. McNamara doesn't break any new ground, but he does allow his cast to carry a thin plot to great heights. Miranda Richardson and Garry McDonald stand out portraying Placid's conflicted parents, and Rose Byrne is sweetly amusing as Gemma. THE RAGE IN PLACID LAKE is perfect for a rainy day. It won't change your life, but it will cheer you up.

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Eye On The Overlooked
Every other Sunday

A lot of great movies slip through the cracks. I'm here to catch them.


Other Columns
Other columns by Scott Tunstall:

High School Can Be Murder

A Wolf In Girl's Clothing

Southern Hospitality

Ten Great Films From the 2000s

Stranger In A Strange Land

All Columns


Scott Tunstall
Scott is a freelance writer currently living in the Southeast. He is a film school grad with a love of theory and screenwriting. His tastes vary from obscure niche films to giant Hollywood blockbusters. In other words, he'll watch pretty much anything.


Contact
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Scott Tunstall by clicking here.


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