Rites of Passage, 1999
As actors go, Dean Stockwell never disappoints. On the strength of his work, I was happy to tune in to the recent airing of this film on Dish.
Ever the fertile ground to spin resonating words, the messiness of unfinished family business provides here, less a primary vehicle for sloppy sentimentality than for thoughtful conversation on screen if not also thought-provoking conversation afterward for viewers. Kudos to the writers. The head space here, though, is stretched on appropriately dramatic cloth as if often missing. Each twist and turn keeps the viewer involved in the human experience portrayed and does so without abuse to the suspension of disbelief. Of course, ?realism? has its downside in the overuse and monochromatic dependence on the F-word. Are we to savor the pepper or the beef?
In any event, the script is mercifully lacking in the expository material that would never occur between persons. All of the characters are drawn and well played. If anything, the bad guy is the only one who is quickly over-spelled in villainous overtone and yet survives to utter many a provocative thought to the very end.
I am tempted to assert that ?Rites of Passage? is not necessarily a gay-themed film. Although this particular plot would never work without the disowned son, most of the good writing would work for any of a number of other bad excuses for the catastrophe imposed within the clan. One of the ironies occurs when we consider the etymology of the word. In olden time, to be gay was to be happy, and yet in this film, nobody is happy. All are confused, vexed, perplexed in many ways, and the happy ending consists entirely of the passage to a new beginning instead of a tidy close, and asks ?Are we to be human, or are we to be monstrous?? It works as well for the larger metaphor as it does for the specific case.
And yet, as a gay-themed film, ?Rites of Passage? shows a refreshing change of restraint and respect for the viewer. Often preachy, the monotonous yada yada of political correctness is sharply curtailed here and subordinated to good film-making. Cut what's boring and highlight the fresh angle.
It is not for everyone, but ranks as Best in Class for me.