The Rehearsal, director Alison Maclean’s first characteristic because the 1999 Denis Johnson adaptation Jesus’ Son, is such a hodgepodge of arthouse references, arch distancing results, and emotionally vacant wide-screen compositions that one might simply mistake it for an ungainly debut movie. James Rolleston stars as Stanley, a hunky first-year pupil at a prestigious New Zealand performing faculty who is inspired by the combative, guru-like head teacher, Hannah (Kerry Fox), to develop a theater piece based mostly on a neighborhood intercourse scandal that has engulfed the household of his underage girlfriend, Isolde (Ella Edward). Contrived as it might sound, this isn’t a nasty premise. However each little bit of inherent pressure is dissipated by Maclean’s course, which meanders from affectlessness to affectation, producing a clean mise en scène during which nothing behind or across the actors means something, except it actually says “Brecht” in huge letters. The Rehearsal signifies and quotes conflicts and uncomfortable psychosexual pressures with out ever truly delving into them, and within the course of—for this can be a movie that’s loudly about “the method”—loses its grasp on the caustic equation of artwork and predatory habits that one suspects is meant to be its complete level.
What it has going for it are just a few prolonged, impassively angular scenes of performing workout routines and discussions led by Hannah on the drama faculty, ominously referred to solely as “the Institute”; it’s in these sequences that the youthful members of the forged are at their most plausible, although it’s unclear whether or not that is an intentional ironic subtext or simply unevenness. That’s true of rather a lot in The Rehearsal. Tailored by Maclean and Emily Perkins—the Kiwi novelist, not the star of Ginger Snaps—from a novel by Elizabeth Catton, the movie strikes in inelegant and aimless lurches, from rehearsal areas and events to stoned discussions of higher motion pictures and cutesy photographs of actors goofing round in entrance of a pink wall. In different phrases, it places itself within the unenviable spot of being too synthetic for any of its meta-teen-soap plotting to look actual, whereas missing the rigor that might give its artificiality context. Hannah is depicted as irresponsible and immature, whereas Stanley is an actor of very restricted expertise and emotional vary, and whereas there’s one thing ballsy in centering a narrative concerning the supposedly empathetic artwork of Methodology characterization on two off-putting characters who come throughout as potential sociopaths, this seems to be simply one of many many suggestive concepts wasted by The Rehearsal.
The identical goes for any similarities within the relationship between Stanley and George Saladin (Erroll Shand), the tennis coach caught having intercourse with Isolde’s 15-year-old sister, Victoria (Rachel Roberts). In Catton’s novel, the Saladin character was a music instructor, and whereas the change opens up every kind of potential parallels between artwork and athletics and their shared obsessions with expertise and coaching, no, it’s simply an excuse for Maclean to point out performing college students whipping tennis rackets whereas making extra indirect references to the mid-1960s movies of Jean-Luc Godard. The Rehearsal’s uninteresting blocking by no means matches its largely European influences (a lot of cinematographer Andrew Commis’ camerawork might be described as “tried Haneke”), however whereas one would possibly say that the film is simply asking for bother by brazenly courting comparisons to acknowledged masters, The Rehearsal at the least has the knowledge to incorporate scenes of the undertaking put collectively by Stanley and his fellow performing college students, which is unhealthy and artless sufficient to periodically remind the viewer that they may very well be watching one thing a lot worse.