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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Groove

Starring: Lola Glaudini, Hamish Linklater
Director: Greg Harrison
Rated: R
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: June 2000
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music

*Also starring: Denny Kirkwood, Mackenzie Firgens, Steve Van Wormer, Lew Baldwin, Rachel True, John Digweed, Wade Randolph Hampton, Forest Green

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

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

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