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  Rapture, The For God's Sake
Year: 1991
Director: Michael Tolkin
Stars: Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny, Will Patton, Patrick Bauchau, Kimberly Cullum, Carole Davis, Dick Anthony Williams, James LeGros, Terri Hanauer, Sam Vlahos, Stephanie Menuez
Genre: Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bored Sharon (Mimi Rogers) works in a call centre by day, a soul-destroying job that saps her will through its numbing repetition. However, by night she fills the void in her life by indulging in random sexual encounters accompanied by her friend Vic (Patrick Bauchau) where they seek out other swinging couples for evenings of wild abandon. Tonight she meets Randy (David Duchovny) and his partner, so they go back to their place, and have such a successful time that Sharon meets Randy for subsequent encounters, not knowing how their lives will be linked in the future. Then one night Sharon and Vic are at another couple's apartment when she notices an elaborate tattoo covering the back of the woman, Angie (Carole Davis). Haven't you heard of the Pearl? asks Angie, alluding to the picture depicted in the tattoo, and though Sharon had not before, she certainly has now...

After the success of Robert Altman's The Player, some of the glow fell upon its screenwriter Michael Tolkin and he was given the opportunity to direct his own script. Showing admirable single mindedness, he didn't opt for another smart comedy for his debut at the helm of his own film, but this willfully slow and difficult religious drama, which comes across like the type of film shown in church halls, except these churches have rejected God. What the Pearl is is a dream that enters the minds of the chosen people who have allowed God into their hearts, and once Sharon hears of it she tries to bluff her way into the lives of the co-workers who have enjoyed the spiritual experience which, they believe, heralds the approach of the final judgement day, also known as the Rapture.

The Rapture will see the faithful taken up into Heaven, just as foretold in the scriptures, but Sharon doesn't embrace this idea straight away. She's too married to her empty life, but after a while she entertains thoughts of marrying Randy. It's just that she has to hit rock bottom before she can climb all the way back up, and after using a hitchhiker's pistol in a motel room potential suicide attempt, she realises she can't go through with killing herself. There's a Bible in the drawer of the room's bedside cabinet and she regards this as a sign, especially when later she finally has the dream of the Pearl. From then on Sharon is a convert, much to the consternation of Vic and even Randy, who she eventually weds. So it is that the film emerges as one of two halves, before the revelation and after.

It's this second half that is the most controversial, or so the distributors might have hoped in the search for publicity. Tolkin's stance may be contentious, yet on the other hand perhaps he would have been better offering his script to a director who had a greater measure of swish in his style because where this should be eerie and disturbing, Tolkin renders his tale in a frustratingly muted and matter of fact manner. We're dealing with the potential end of the world, but the importance of that never gets through langorous pace. Six years on and Sharon has a daughter, but a tragedy sees her fleeing to the desert with the little girl in the belief that God is planning to take them both up into Heaven if they do as he says. The point is that God is a hypocrite: He makes his people, his creations, suffer in abominable ways and then asks them to thank Him for it, so even at the cost of eternal life in paradise, should we really accept His ways when He allows such awful situations and such terrible acts are committed in His name? It's a stimulating film if you can get past the sleepwalking approach, Rogers is excellent throughout and the bleak ending is genuinely strange. Music by Thomas Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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