Directed by Allison Maclean
Starring James Rolleston, Kerry Fox, Ella Edward
Based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name, The Rehearsal delves into some morally ambiguous ground in it’s study of a first year drama student.
The first year at a drama institute is challenging for Stanley (James Rolleston), as he is challenged to strive for what he wants in class, and confront his own inhibitions. At times struggling, at others excelling Stanley becomes fascinated by the scandal surrounding his girlfriend Isolde’s (Ella Edward) sister. The sordid details of the under-age girl’s love affair with her older tennis coach seems like perfect fodder for his group’s end of year performance piece. So perfect in fact that he is willing to ignore Isolde’s feelings, as well as overlook the age difference between the two of them.
The Rehearsal is a hard film to recommend, or even to like. Even beyond the difficult subject matter of statuary rape (or “Lolita in the suburbs” as it chooses to minimize it), it is full of self absorbed characters. The fact that controversial relationship is entered into with full acknowledgement of the older participant, without thought of consequence is genuinely shocking, and does little to endear the central character to the audience. In fact all the characters are flawed, lacking in empathy, selfish, and egotistical. It is hard to find a single character that is likable, or that the audience can even relate to.
A film doesn’t have to be likable, or even enjoyable to be good. There is a certain power to cinema challenging you, and promoting debate as to meaning and intent after the film. The Rehearsal certainly does this. Like it or hate it, it is a film that will make you think- analyzing the motivations and actions of characters. There is a certain power in that.
Also, to be entirely truthful, there were times when we’ve all been less than stellar examples of humanity. Shocking as that may be. If we were to cast our mind back to high school and University, it is certainly likely that we were confused, naive, selfish, and careless – just like these characters. In that way The Rehearsal is a realistic reflection, but not entirely a flattering one.
On the whole though, Rolleston’s low key performance makes Stanley a frustratingly enigmatic character to try and get a handle on. We rarely gain insight into him, and only achieve any degree of understanding of his character through others. Ella Edward by contrast is fascinating as Isolde, naive and inquisitive, far beyond her depth, but with the courage to constantly move forward.
Challenging and divisive, The Rehearsal is certainly not comfortable viewing despite an easy going style.