Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Alistair Browning, Sarah Peirse, Marton Csokas, Aaron Murphy
Written by: Christine Jeffs, based on the novel by Kirsty Gunn
Directed by: Christine Jeffs
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content and nudity
Running Time: 92
Date: 05/14/2001

Rain (2002)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Down the Drain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When coming-of-age movies are good, they're very good, like Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy and Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World. But these are huge exceptions to the general rule. Every year at least ten films try it. Most of them fail.

I'm still not sure why coming-of-age movies are so hard to pull off. I suppose it's because filmmakers get lazy and they assume that their childhood stories will appeal on a universal level no matter what they do, and so they usually copy ideas from other coming-of-age stories.

But if a film stays rooted in the world of fiction and fails to create any kind of reality or truth, it becomes a boring diary based on someone's interpretation other people's memories.

Christine Jeffs' debut feature Rain falls into this category. Despite the New Zealand beachside location, the gritty photography and the 1970s setting, it still feels like a movie, complete with movie conventions and movie logic.

More disturbingly, the overall theme of the film seems to be that female sexual exploration will not go unpunished. The recent Jason X used this same theme, and was far more entertaining besides. Guess which movie the critics like more?

In Rain, the 15 year-old Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) wanders through a hazy summer watching her parents drink and party. Her father Ed (Alistair Browning) drifts around in a funk and her mother Kate (Sarah Peirse) begins a secret affair with a hunky photographer (Marton Csokas), who lives in a nearby houseboat. Janey listens to funky old records and tries an alcoholic drink at a party. She also teaches her younger brother, Jim (Aaron Murphy), how to swim.

Nothing much actually happens, but Janey begins to wonder about sex. She kisses one of the geeky local boys a couple of times, but little comes of it. Soon, she decides she wants her picture taken by the photographer. "It's for my portfolio," she tells her parents.

But when she goes out to model for him -- and flirt with him -- disaster strikes and someone dies. I won't say who, but the movie might as well have put up a big flashing green sign to help with its obvious foreshadowing.

Rain does a fine job at capturing the sleazy party attitude of the 1970s, combined with the relaxed feel of living near the water. But it also throws in the dreariness and ennui that comes with a foggy day or waking up to find too many discarded beer cans and mysterious dried fluids on the carpet.

After about a half hour of this, and not caring a whit about the characters in Rain, I wanted nothing more than to return to the present day.

Best Buy Co, Inc.