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Get into the Groove

S.F. rave film is airy but fun

Groove starts in a blur of electronics -- beepers, Palm Pilots, and even good old-fashioned e-mail goes off as word of a coming rave passes quickly, a beginning to what at its best is a thumping party of a movie. Digital interludes flash, images catch your eye, like a guy riding Muni with a disco ball on his lap (featured on the movie posters), or a group of ravers filmed in slow-motion, seeming to fly rather than jump, and, of course, your head bounces to the big beats of the soundtrack. There are moments and stretches of this 75 minute blur of a movie that truly capture the experience of a good rave. It's only when Groove has to come back to being a movie, rather than an experience, that the shallowness of the film is exposed.
This loosely-connected story of one night at a San Francisco rave fizzles a bit on characters and plot to the point where even describing the roles gets dull. Harmony and Colin (Mackenzie Firgens and Denny Kirkwood) are the chaotic couple, their night c.plete with everything from engagement to polysexual cheating. Leyla and David (Lola Glaudini, Hamish Linklater) are the budding romance. Then there's a directionless veteran of the scene no longer getting the same thrills, and a tech writer at his first rave, taking ecstasy for the first time. Onscreen, these main four characters are even less interesting to watch than to write about.

Perhaps bad acting is to be expected from any low-budget first movie, but neither Firgens nor Linklater is particularly interesting to watch, and Kirkwood pushes even low-budget leniency with a performance that goes from overdramatic at the movie's start to surprisingly underdramatic when the script finally gives him c.plications to work out. Glaudini, the only cast member with significant acting credits (she's a regular on NYPD Blue) gives more life to her character than any of the leads, but her "poor little party girl" role is too mindless to gain much sympathy
Ecstasy is as important to the plot as any of the characters, as it sends David and Leyla into love and the other characters into fervent dance. As told by Groove's version of Mr. Wizard, a wacky Chemistry T.A. and dealer (Cliff Rafferty ), E is a wonder drug without consequence, unlike nitrous (which a few characters act really stupid on), or weaker substances; to quote him, "Pot and beer fucks you up- this enhances you." Whether the movie's pro-ecstasy message is propaganda or not, and it certainly dances the line in many places, even throwing in public service announcements like "Eat dinner before you take drugs." If ecstasy is ever shown to have adverse effects, Groove may go down in infamy alongside Superfly, the blaxploitation flick done when cocaine was still thought to be harmless.
When Groove isn't choking on its own message or dragging on in chatter, it is actually hitting on all cylinders -- plot and characters aren't just unnecessary to the film, they slow it down. Writer-director Greg Harrison also edited this film, and it shows when the action moves in quick cuts, going rhythmically along with music from DJs such as John Digweed (whose cameo entrance with a "fresh crate of vinyl" resuscitates the rave and the film at the same time). Harrison knows his details, down to the crappy cars our party people drive, and mention of the Endup once the party's over.

Though not as well-scripted as Saturday Night Fever, Groove captures rave almost as well as that movie captures disco. Like a decent rave, Groove is a fun time and not too much more, evoking a moment if not quite a movement.


rated R
1 hour 23 minutes

Lola Glaudini
Steve Van Wormer
Hamish Linklater
Rachel True
Denny Kirkwood