The Rapture (1991)

Dir. Michael Tolkin
Starring: Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny, etc.
7/10

There are only a few films I can think of where knowing the title of a movie would actually take a little away, not from the film itself, but the film experience. Alas, I can’t think of anyway to write about this film, without letting you know the title. Mitchell and Penny were the “lucky” ones to get to see this without knowing the title. (I’ll let them comment on how “lucky” they felt.)

Of the people I would recommend this to–Kevin, Chris, John, Tony and Grace–I would qualify the recommendation by saying that I don’t necessarily think they would like this film. Mainly, I’m recommending this because I think the film would lead to an interesting discussion, and unlike other films that inspire good discussion, the good discussion doesn’t depend on significant amounts of time for individuals to digest and analyze; a good discussion can occur immediately after the film. I’d mildly recommend this to Marc if he saw it with others and was in the mood for discussion. I would not recommend this to Don, Joel, Jill. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to Larri. I think she gave the film a four. This was a pick from the 1001 book, and I think it was fairly decent choice.

I have mixed feelings about my rating–I’m going back and forth between a 6 and a 7–but I finally decided on seven (to Mitchell’s dismay). You can read about the reasons in the third section.

**
I hesitate to describe the plot because I think even a general description will take a little away from it. Still, many of you may find the loss negligible, so I’ll proceed. The film is about a woman, Sharon (Rogers) who has meaningless sex at night and, by night, works as a phone operator. She develops a more serious relationship with Randy (Duchovny). At the same time, Sharon begins her exploration of Christianity and eventually converts to a group that believe Jesus will be returning soon. A good film to see with a bunch of people, especially those with a diverse view of Christianity.

***
I think I’ve said somewhere else that because I’ve watched so many films in a relatively short period of time, originality–seeing something I’ve never seen or rarely seen–counts a lot more for me. This film gets points on that criterion alone. For one thing, it’s one of the only Hollywood films I can think of that takes Christianity in a serious way. What’s even more interesting and rare is that the film can be interpreted as a pro-Christian film, even though it is most likely made by a non-Christian. (I don’t believe Tolkin is religious, but if he has he sounds like he is a Jew.) The Christians in the film are not portrayed as the cardboard villians typical in Hollywood films. On the other hand, one could argue that they do appear weird. My response is that, in many ways, Christians do appear weird especially to non-believers. But I don’t think the filmmakers are creating caricatures, nor do they want to simply mock Christians/Christianity. Instead, I think the film’s value is in posing questions about Christianity: is morality and a sense of guilt that comes from violating it something innate or taught? how does one become saved? what will happen if and when Jesus returns? who will be saved and who won’t? If you see this film with other people–particularly a mix of Christians and non-Christians–I think these questions will be inevitable–and that is a significant accomplishment, especially from a Hollywood film.

On these points alone the film is noteworthy, but there is also good direction, particularly in the way the director holds your attention and keeps your curiosity. You wonder what is happening in various scenes, you’re not sure what’s going to happen, and you want to find out. The editing and pacing keeps the film moving along, too. (Some of the effects seem a little cheesy, but you can tell this was a low-budget film.) Another part of the film I liked was the character, Foster, played by Will Patton. (Btw, Mitchell, the girl with the tatoo played Roxy in Mannequin.) He had good lines and delivered them well.

So why didn’t I give this a higher rating? For me, while I liked the serious treatment of Christianity and the questions the film raises, I think the portrayal of Christianity felt false. Not only did I disagreed with the theology of the film, but I just felt like the spirituality of the film felt artificial or at least shallow. Compared to other films that portray deeply spiritual people, the spirituality in this film just didn’t seem real. Although in fairness to the filmmaker, perhaps they never conceived of Sharon as spiritually deep. I think for that reason–and the way this film raises questions about Christianity–I have to give this a 7. The score does not reflect how much I personally liked the film, but I feel, objectively, it deserves that score.

I want to address some criticisms Mitchell made about the film, namely the poor development of Sharon and the other characters. I agree that the filmmakers didn’t give enough time to make Sharon a more realistic person; that adding in some scenes could have accomplished. But I think the arc of her character’s story–particularly the stages she goes through and the questions related to each stage–was more important than the realism of the character.

One more thing. There is another interpretation of the film which I haven’t explored, namely that this film is not necessarily about Christianity per se, but about the mood of the times (90s): the emptiness and longing for something more meaningful; the sense of foreboding doom (perhaps more relevant to the 80s, pre-Perestroika).

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