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From as young as 5, Placid Lake (Ben Lee) has been different, and encouraged to be so by his hippy parents Sylvia (Miranda Richardson) and Doug Lake (Garry McDonald). Taunted and bullied mercilessly by his peers, he did form a strong bond with Gemma Taylor (Rose Byrne), a girl whose mother had died, and whose father sees her as a future Marie Curie – and whose brilliant mind also sets her outside the norm. As they grow up, they share a need to find ‘the norm’ so they’d fit in – but they avoid turning their friendship into a sexual relationship. Things get desperate when Placid decides to secretly take a normal job at a large insurance company, cuts his hair and takes to wearing a suit in an attempt to satisfy both his parents and his need for fitting in. 

Review by Louise Keller:
All our expectations are turned on their head and tossed aside in The Rage in Placid Lake, a darkly comic coming of age story about a young man who tries desperately to fit in. The story originated as a stage play called The Café Latte Kid, which had a run at the Sydney Theatre Company a few years ago, and while Tony McNamara’s adaptation of his stage play works in part, it’s really the concept that shines best of all. The script at times feels somewhat stilted, even though much of the film’s charm shines through with its wacky characters. 

The characters are well devised and we can clearly see where Placid Lake is coming from. When we meet his parents, his name is not so surprising. After all, his mother is a hippie-cum-lesbian who promotes calm, while his father’s a guru-counsellor who can’t get angry. And poor Placid, in a bid to become acceptable to others, takes a boring office job and tries to lead a ‘normal’ life. But his parents’ response is not what he expects: they are horrified by his job and conscientiousness, and would rather he smoked a bit of weed and ‘hung about’. 

Placid quickly learns that the best way to keep everyone happy, is to ‘be all things to all people’ and to ‘take the path of least resistance’, but finds that leading a double life is not successful either. Australian musician Ben Lee plays the brilliantly inventive and eccentric Placid Lake, and in doing so reminds me a little of a young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. But while he does a pretty good job of Placid, he lacks Hoffman’s charisma, and never makes his character a totally sympathetic one. 

Instead, it’s his relationship with his ‘Doris Day scientist girlfriend’ Gemma, that’s the most compelling part of the story, with Gemma the pivot, wonderfully brought to life by the enchanting and very talented Rose Byrne. Byrne has the kind of screen charisma that makes you really care for her and she makes Gemma very real. Watch out too for a tiny cameo by Lee’s actress girlfriend Claire Danes, who appears only too briefly. I really like Gary McDonald and Miranda Richardson’s scene stealing neurotic parents, plus there are some very funny moments with an unfortunate office-worker called Anton who is eaten up by jealousy by Placid’s fast-track to success in the world of filing cabinets and office-sex. It may not totally satisfy the rage intended, but the ideas are stimulating and we do enjoy the ride.

Published January 15, 2004

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CAST: Ben Lee, Miranda Richardson, Rose Byrne, Garry McDonald

DIRECTOR: Tony McNamara

SCRIPT: Tony McNamara (from his play, The Café Latte Kid)

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16x9 enhanced; 2.35.1 ratio; 5.1 Dolby Digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast & Crew Biographies; Photo Gallery; trailers (Erskineville Kings, Japanese Story, I'm With Lucy, Happy Texas)

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 14, 2004

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