The Rehearsal

In Alison Maclean’s vibrant screen adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s debut novel, a first-year acting student (James Rolleston) channels the real-life experience of his girlfriend’s family into art and sets off a moral minefield.

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  • ★★★★★ review by Josiah Morgan on Letterboxd

    NZIFF 2016//Film #5

    Keeps growing in my mind in the time since viewing (hearing Maclean talk about the film helped a lot too) - it's about what's seen and what isn't, certainly the apotheosis of NZ filmmaking so far: we are all Followers creating by consuming, the design of our intrinsically false society emanates outward from our art as our art is introspectively linked to the constructed, lived-in world, throw aside the curtain and leap outside the realm of adhering to the fabrications of others, find yourself within the tangible connections between your skin and the skin of others.

  • ★★★★ review by Lia Allison on Letterboxd

    it's in there!

  • ★★★★½ review by Gemma Gracewood on Letterboxd

    Brrrrrrr cold flats and first year intensity and teenage narcissism and teacher egos. Non-romantic close ups. Frank focus-pulling. Improv moments. This is a two martini review of a time warp (as in, first year never changes).

  • ★★★★ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd

    I once got my balls served up to me on a platter for accusing an actor friend of mine of acting when she was in the middle of a heated discussion with me. It wasn't pretty. I've never pressed that particular line since but it is something that popped back into my consciousness watching The Rehearsal, Alison Maclean's adaptation of Eleanor Catton's debut novel.

    During his first year at a prestigious acting school, Stanley (a grown up James Rolleston of Boy fame) and his classmates are pressured into coming out of their acting shells by a head teacher, Hannah (a tyrannical Kerry Fox). Hannah's methods are questioned by staff and students, but there's a playfulness to her severity. It is almost as if she is acting it out her intensity so as to draw the best from her students. I've done that as a teacher. I'm sure as an acting teacher it is even more effective.

    It is this multi-layered presentation of reality that brings such vibrancy to Maclean's film. You can never be sure exactly who is meaning what they say, being who they are, or rehearsing to be someone else - a future self or someone entirely different. All those things are true of Stanley and his classmates, especially when they opt to tackle a local scandal for their end of year group production, a scandal Stanley is tangentially associated with via his new love interest, Isolde (Ella Edward). Suddenly, another couple of layers of morality are thrown on top of the already layered context.

    Maclean's deft handling of all of these competing complexities makes the exceptional clear-eyedness of The Rehearsal a small marvel. Serious, often quite dark issues are handled with bright but respectful humour and despite the brilliance of the competing personalities nothing is lost in the glare. Even Rolleston's magnetic turn as leading man is subsumed into one of the film's central (but beautifully inconspicuous) themes. It'd be a shame to call out how, suffice to say that Rolleston has grown into an astonishingly attractive leading man, and that is something that may distract from narrative considerations that should probably have been more apparent, at least to my mind. 

    Such is the power of acting. And such is the power of The Rehearsal in being able to communicate it.

  • ★★★★ review by eugenen on Letterboxd

    Got seriously weepy in the final moments, which beautifully distill the film's themes of intimacy, privacy, shared experience, and the relationships between the three. Maclean is meticulous in making the movie about what it's about (favorite moment: an emotional confrontation between Stanley and his girlfriend at a party, with a supporting character showing up at the side of the frame literally munching popcorn), but what really sets it apart is moment-to-moment credibility -- the story involves a group of drama students putting together a theater performance piece, and the process as depicted is actually plausible, as is what we see of acting class. Earns its sentimentality (a character death feels genuinely tragic) and is just masterful in blending an enjoyable, vivid surface with thoughtful subtext.

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