Monday, March 21, 2005

Movie Review: The Rapture

United States, 1991
Running Time: 1:40
Rated: R
Cast: Mimi Rogers, David Duchovney, Patrick Bauchau, Kimberly Cullum, Will Patton

Director: Michael Tolkin
Producers: Karen Koch, Nancy Tenenbaum, Nick Wechsler
Screenplay: Michael Tolkin
Music:
Studio: New Line Cinema


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The tagline to this 1991 religious drama reads: “Rapture (rap'chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse.” Frankly, this may be one of the most appropriate feature film titles ever conceived; The Rapture is a daring amalgamation of sexuality, faith, and a resilient fundamentalist viewpoint of the End of Days.

While definition four from the tagline serves as the crux of the storyline, I highly doubt anyone will be experiencing definition one after viewing this imperfect and misguided allegory. While The Rapture may provoke a small amount of thought, concerning the word-for-word biblical outlook of Judgment Day, it may also provoke its viewers into a sheer state of annoyance and dissatisfaction.

Sharon (Mimi Rogers) is an information operator by day and a full-fledged adulterer by night. To escape the monotony of her day job, Sharon spends her evenings hunting for couples who are willing to engage in casual group sex with her and her friend Vic (Patrick Bauchau).

After a series of ménage a trois’ and foursomes, Sharon begins to feel a vacancy in her soul and starts to search for the purpose and meaning in her life. It is not until Sharon overhears a discussion of religion, encounters a pair of door-to-door evangelists, and nearly commits suicide, that she finds God and opens the gateways of her heart to Jesus. She ditches Vic and her sex-crazed lifestyle and converts Randy (David Duchoveny), one of her previous partners, from Atheist to Christian.

Fast forward six years. Sharon is now married to Randy and has a daughter named Mary (Kimberly Cullum). They are members of a fundamentalist sect that follow the every word of a prophesizing boy. Sharon, Randy, and Mary all adhere to the boy’s every word and as a result, anticipate the End of the World to transpire within one year. However, after Randy is suddenly murdered, Sharon takes her daughter to the desert to await the rapture that will raise them to Heaven.

Hats off to The Rapture for being an intimidating literal depiction of the Apocalypse, but shame on writer/director Michael Tolkin for creating a lead character that is impossible to feel sympathy for. After losing her husband, the action that Sharon executes is unsettling and deranged. At this instant and from here on, it is very easy to perceive the film’s main character as “Sharon the Psycho” and not “Sharon the Heroine.”

Substandard movies stem from substandard screenplays, and The Rapture is a perfect case in point. With a slew of clunky dialogue, an unexpected jump to six years later, and a cynical climax, writer/director Tolkin further fills up his bag of mistakes. In addition, The Rapture contains a set of sub-par special effects, a pushy score that tries to dictate how the audience should feel, and an unrealistic scene at a fast food window. In fact, at one point, I was unsure if the film was going to progress beyond appearing as an ad showing how long Mimi Rogers could hold smoke in her lungs and then blow it out through her nostrils.

With Mimi Rogers’ frenetic and overwrought role, The Rapture comes off as an occasionally enrapturing, yet second-rate, picture that doesn’t attempt to appeal to any set demographic. In the end, its portrayal of a woman’s journey from sin to salvation and back – that all-the-while contains the challenging themes of hedonism, self-discovery, and religious zealotry – is unnerving, yet in the long-run unrewarding. (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005