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GROOVE

SYNOPSIS:
On a Friday night in San Francisco, word of a rave party spreads via the internet. People from different parts of the city converge on a vacant warehouse which has been turned into the party venue by rave organiser Ernie (Steve Van Dormer). They include rave scene veteran Colin (Den Kirkwood), his girlfriend Harmony (Mackenzie Firgens) and Colin's staid brother David (Hamish Linklater) who has never experienced a rave. Under the influence of various drugs the party-goers dance until dawn, by which time many of their lives have been profoundly affected.

"Groove may look like a film without much to offer anyone outside its youth target audience but closer inspection reveals a sincere, if sometimes naive, small-scale "American Graffitti" for the Ecstacy generation. Whether you're 15 or 45, chances are you'll find something to take away from this big night out. If you don't know much about the rave scene Groove takes the time to tell you how it works. It's an important consideration and one which challenges the popular media image of these events as simply being drug-taking extravaganzas. Drugs (Ecstasy in particular) play a pivotal role and Groove doesn't attempt to hide the fact but it's also interested in giving us insight into how this subculture functions. There's a feeling of authenticity from the outset as San Francisco rave organiser Ernie and his crew scour locations for the next dance party with the motto "there are no obstacles, only challenges". The selected location can only be found by following an urban orienteering course - all part of the excitement of an underground, do-it-yourself happening. The main movers and groovers are rave afficianado Colin and his brother David - a staid, career-oriented type whose initial reluctance to attend provides neat contrast to the wild enthusiasm of the regulars. His connection with visiting New Yorker Leyla (Lola Glaudini) is sweetly done and while there is no deep and meaningful analysis offered these kids are pleasant company as they do what every generation has done: i.e. get high on some sort of drug, dance until dawn and hope they meet someone with whom they can escape the singles scene. The conversations may not be profound (who can lay claim to knowing it all in their early 20's?) but they have a natural feel and are believable. First-time writer/director Greg Harrison may be guilty of viewing the rave scene in too idealistic a fashion and going easy on the perils of Ecstasy but it's clear he knows his subject intimately. With the help of a terrific soundtrack featuring internationally renowned DJ John Digweed he stages a party that's well worth attending."
Richard Kuipers

"Although raves can be intensely 'cinematic' events, using sound, lighting and design to create an enveloping sensory experience, commercial cinema has not had much luck depicting rave culture directly. The amorphous clusters of bodies dancing in semi-darkness; the repetitive, continuous, pounding music that makes extended conversation impossible; the drug-induced feelings of connection and timelessness - all this seems radically opposed to traditional Hollywood narrative, with its conflicts, heroes and goals. In aiming to combine the two, Groove is rather like a new version of the backstage musical. Thus the rave itself is idealised as a magic, all-embracing community where lives can be transformed and healed. But at the same time, we see all the planning and struggle that goes into sustaining this dream: the cheap homemade props, the fear of a police bust, and the frequent awkwardness of the ravers themselves, who have to struggle to overcome their personal fears and frustrations. Unfortunately, the film's execution is much weaker than its premise. Despite all the attempts to convey the visual razzle-dazzle of a rave, its overall look is murky and undistinguished. And none of the subplots or characters, in themselves, are very witty, original or memorable. I'm especially tired of encountering those dorky yet good-looking heroes, fantasy projections of male filmmakers, who somehow manage to pick up sexy, motherly chicks through being so lovably inept. The hero in question here is (of course) a would-be writer, and an implicit theme of Groove might be the disparate strategies people use - romantic relationships, the yearning to be 'creative,' attendance at events like raves - to bring meaning into their otherwise not-too-rewarding lives. Possibly the film would have been able to explore this subject more fully if it hadn't been so insistent about positioning itself as a feelgood piece of light entertainment."
Jake Wilson

"Iím not sure whether this film is trying harder to be an advertisement for rave culture, or for Evian water. It certainly does a good job of promoting the latter. We are presented with an ensemble of oh so health conscious pill gobblers constantly reminding each other to imbibe copious quantities of purified H20. While the formula in their flasks may be pure, no one seems to care about the purity of their pills. They do seem to have the desired effect, however: altering consciousness to such an extent that the user believes a repetitive four-on-the-floor bass drum sample qualifies as a "groove". But I doubt there is a chemical cocktail that could make this self-indulgent drivel seem meaningful, or even moderately entertaining. Like the documentary Better Living Through Circuitry, it suffers from the delusion that a simple representation of the culture is enough to win over the uninitiated. As far as dedicated ravers are concerned, it would be fair to assume they would rather go to a party than watch a fake one. The communal frisson, the thumping energy and psychedelic ambience canít be experienced vicariously. Like all social phenomena, rave culture is a potentially rich source for cinema; so long as it acts as a theme, as a framework, not the entire picture. The problem here is that the characters are less developed than the average techno track melody. The protagonist is a sceptical freelance writer, and I couldnít empathise, so I donít like anyone elseís chances. Meanwhile, the heroic altruism of party organiser Ernie (Steve Van Dormer) is nothing short of laughable. We learn, and eventually witness, how he does it all for "the nod" Ė his reaction to the inevitable gratitude of some hopeless tragic. Ernie might nod, but Iím still shaking my head."
Brad Green

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

GROOVE (MA)
(US)

CAST: Lola Glaudini, Hamish Linklater, Den Kirkwood, Kenzie Firgens, Vincent Riverside

PRODUCERS: Greg Harrison, Danielle Renfrew

DIRECTOR: Greg Harrison

SCRIPT: Greg Harrison

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Irving

EDITOR: Greg Harrison

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Ferriera

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 30, 2000







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