I was going to write about the second episode of The Messengers today, but I am waaaay too excited about It’s The Rage (All the Rage (1999), on IMDB). I’m going focus exclusively on how incredibly, amazingly, mind-blowingly wonderful each of the characters are.
See, Matt Butler and I have very different criteria for our movie going experiences. He wants things like plot and believable characters and “cohesion“. Well, you are not going to get any of those things in this joyride of a film!
You are also not going to get anything approaching subtlety. I watched an interview with Joan Allen about this film (I own the DVD), and it is adorable. She truly believes that this movie is a subtle and evenhanded exploration of gun culture. That is the thing I love so much about ITR: everyone is convinced that their work is going to change people’s lives, so each actor commits to the lunacy of their character 100%.
And, wow, the characters! We have 8 main characters (8!) and I love every single one of them from the very depths of my being. Joan Allen is a 50’s style housewife and our protagonist (maybe? she has the most connections to the other characters, so sure!); Jeff Daniels is her jealous, psychotic gun toting husband (he plays the most hateful, despicable, smug, controlling, delusional human; and I love him for it); Andre Braugher is their closeted lawyer whose self-proclaimed attempt at “normal” involves paying for sex with Anna Paquin; Anna Paquin lights up the screen as Annabel Lee, a shoplifting compulsive liar who cavorts through each scene while threatening random bystanders with violent actions from her gun toting brother; Giovani Ribisi is the gun toting brother, Sidney Lee, possibly mentally challenged, definitely way too involved with his sister; David Schwimmer is Chris, Andre Braugher’s explicitly mentally ill, gun toting partner. Joan Allen eventually escapes to a futuristic, walled compound to babysit a gun toting, wonderfully paranoid, cardigan-wearing, multi-millionaire, Morgan (played by Gary Sinise). She replaces his delightfully downtrodden previous assistant, Tennel, Josh Brolin.
Fennel, previously Tennel, has changed his name and grown a pedo-stache to symbolize taking charge of his life. I have never seen any of Mr. Brolin’s other films, but looking for photos, I am impressed by the difference between this and his other roles. There is no point in this movie where he is anything less than entirely nebbish. Look at the photo above. It isn’t just the hair, bow tie, or terrible, terrible mustache. Throughout, his whole body and facial expressions consistently scream dweeb. This man is a damn fine actor and I love him for appearing in this film experience. Anyway, Fennel upon leaving Sinise begins working at a video rental store because it is 1999 and those are still relevant. He falls instantly and irrevocably in love with Annabel Lee when she blatantly steals from his new place of business. There is nothing more endearing than petty larceny, right? (I have been flirting all wrong.)
Annabel Lee, the amazingly bouncy, amoral huckster is so astoundingly enjoyable to watch on screen. She bops through each vignette with her devil-may-care attitude, sprinkling mischief and mayhem in her wake everywhere. Does she have motivation? Does her character arc? No and no. But, who cares? It is amazing and delightful and I love this movie so, so much. Actually, Annabel very nearly gives the separate stories cohesion, tying together characters who would otherwise be too random. She ping pongs enchantingly between Fennel, Andre Braugher, and Sidney Lee (who I’m going to assert is actually the love child of 90s Green Day and Good Charlotte).
It would have been a shame to miss out on a single moment of Sidney Lee. Ribisi spazzes out to varying degrees in each scene. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to learn he was actually tweeking throughout. His twitches and mania occupy way more space than his relatively small frame. He dominates, even when tasked to add background color. There is one absolutely ludicrous scene in a gun range; he is twenty to thirty feet back from the conversation we are supposed to be paying attention to, but Ribisi is entirely riveting as he flails and literally bounces off walls while brandishing a weapon and sending round after round haphazardly downrange. He only calms once in the entire film when, after provoking him with tales of Fennel, Annabel slinks to her knees in front of him on a crowded street corner. She proceeds to show him how she says her prayers each night, which apparently are best recited directly at his crotch. (This movie amazing.) Of course, the crotch she is actually paying attention to most nights is Andre Braugher’s. (I love that was a sentence I got to write.)
Besides the title image (up top), I couldn’t find a picture of Andre Braugher in It’s the Rage. I stumbled on some other pretty great photos, though, and who am I to deprive you of those? Seriously, who is Braugher’s agent? How did he get his role in this movie so successfully smothered that a (half-assed) image search comes up with nothing (except some sexy, sexy Meloni)? In any case, Braugher’s is the character with the clearest motivations and the most agency. Braugher’s character (whose name I forget, in spite of seeing this movie half a dozen times and having IMDB open in another tab) is genuinely likable and conflicted. First off, the gender and sexuality politics in this movie are horrendous. I view it the same way I do any other out of touch media interaction: they just didn’t know any better back then, so let’s whistle right on past that. Keeping that stipulation in mind, Braugher is trying to do the right thing in the shittiest of circumstances. He keeps Jeff Daniels out of jail, but rescues Joan Allen. He seems to care about his partner Chris, but tries to live “a normal life” by paying Annabel Lee for sex. It could just be his natural and innate charisma, but I find him to be a very sympathetic character who is struggling and failing. I could watch Andre Braugher all day; despite the deep and inherent flaws in this character and characterization.
Speaking of “deep and inherent flaws in this character and characterization”, introducing David Schwimmer as Chris! Anyone with mental instabilities, ladies, gentleman, queer folks, straight folks, all should feel seriously insulted by this character. As a combination of a few of the aforementioned demographics, I found his character to be both horrifying and captivating. Whether he is flirting with a cop at the gun range, touching (gun) tips with Andre Braugher, or advising Joan Allen as her clothier, Schwimmer does his best to exude 90s homosexuality. He is all in and I love that about him. Way to commit.
Also entirely committed / committable, Morgan is a telepathic recluse who needs Joan Allen’s help in “keeping all the information out.” That is literally her entire job, she deletes his emails. He is a computer genius who cannot figure out how to program his spam filter. Okay, I’m exaggerating; she also has to eat dinner and play Battleship with him. He absolutely is telepathic, though.