They say that disco is dead but to my unpracticed eyes,
the rave scene looks like a postmodern version of the dance
craze of the seventies...except that the taking of one specific
designer drug, Ecstasy, is required and music spans a range
of progressive electronic that was not part of the scene when
John Travolta strutted his stuff. Drum and bass,
techno-house--these are among the new words that people
over 30 may not yet have in their vocabularies--nor may a lot
of us old-timers be familiar with any, I repeat, any, of the
artists that are part and parcel of the youthful rave parties.
Ever hear of John Digweed? The Hardkiss Brothers?
WishFM? N'Dea Davenport? If not, prepare for an education
if you take in a Sundance favorite known as "Groove."
"Groove" features both professional and amateur actors,
the extras taken from the actual club scene in San Francisco.
If the energy that these twenty-somethings expend during
their all-night warehouse party could be bottled, we wouldn't
need that new car that runs on both gasoline and electricity.
Just put some of these tanked kids in your tank.
First-time director Greg Harrison's movie is being released
at about the same time as a quirkier interpretation of the
scene, Justine Kerrigan's "Human Traffic," a look at
48 hours in the lives of some Welsh youngsters about the
same age as these Californians. Kerrigan's kids look to the
weekend parties as an absolute release from their dead-end
jobs. They hate what they do, whether that be selling jeans
or fast food and as one Kerrigan character says in that film,
"All that exists now is clubs, drugs, pubs and parties...I'm
gonna blow steam out of my head like a screaming kettle.
We're gonna get more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever
did. Anything could happen." Harrison by contrast doesn't
tell us much about what his people do during the week nor
does his camera break off to show us the partygoers'
hallucinations. In a far more straightforward way Harrison
begins by showing us how they learn where these illegal
parties: not through ads in the San Francisco Examiner but
via e-mail. This is an electronic Now Generation from their
means of communication to their music.
"Groove" has a loosely woven plot which centers particular
interest on one couple who meet at the warehouse, Leyla
(Lola Glaudini) and David (Hamish Linklater). Leyla is a New
York veteran at these affairs making a most unlikely
connection with a would-be novelist who did not even want to
attend, who seems never to have taken illegal drugs, but who
is pushed into going by his hipper brother Colin (Denny
Kirkwood). David is as surprised as Colin's girl friend,
Harmony (Mackenzie Firgens) when Colin pops a ring on her
finger and perhaps a little envious, but he need not be. Leyla
introduces the square David to Ecstasy, instructing him to
drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. David mellows out,
becomes groovy, and prompts his new girl friend to get off
her maternal soap box to reveal her own vulnerabilities.
Though the ecstatic group bounce to the music of 25 artists
on display while psychedelic decor brings back memories of
the sixties, we get to know some of these fellows as
individuals. Ernie (Steve Van Wormer), for example, is the
organizer who doesn't have time to dance. After getting the
equipment set up, he spends most of his time outside
watching out for cops and, in the best scene in the story,
seems to con one police officer (Nick Offerman) into thinking
that the party is nothing but a housewarming for new
corporate offices being set up in the abandoned building.
Why does Ernie volunteer for this work? "For the nod," he
insists....for the thank-you's, the handshakes he gets from the
guys who sincerely appreciate what he is doing for them.
This is a fun movie with nothing much up director
Harrison's sleeve but showing the audience and his cast a
good time, but there are moments of sadness. We perceive
that many of these people have no idea where they're
headed in the real world, indeed justifying the expression
"Generation X" sometimes applied to them. The movie could
also serve as a downer to those viewers who take very
seriously the messages about the side effects that Ecstasy
can have on its regular users, but though one guy becomes
virtually comatose from OD'ing on the capsules, he is soon
up and running. The "just say no" message is nowhere to be
seen--nor is Nancy Reagan found among the jumping cast. If
there is any message that Harrison wants to convey, it's that
rave parties are not the out-of-control shindigs that the
general public thinks they are but are more likely places for
young people to dance and, more important, to communicate
with one another on a more sensual and honest basis than
they could do without the help of Ecstasy.
Copyright © 2000 Harvey Karten