Friday Flashback: The Rapture (1991)

I must admit, I have absolutely no idea what all of this talk about the coming rapture is all about. I keep seeing posts on Facebook, but haven’t bothered to look into reading anything about it. Colleagues at work have spoken about it, and, if I understand correctly, the end of the world is supposed to happen tomorrow, May 21, 2011. So I guess this will be the final post on The Lantern – and I’m not sure why I bothered going into work with the end of the civilized world so near.

Anyway, I thought to celebrate (if that’s the proper word) the impending apocalypse with another must-see/4-star film for the ‘Friday Flashback’ feature — The Rapture, written and directed by Michael Tolkin. Now, twenty years later, I vividly recall being a student at New York University when this came out and seeing it at the Angelika Theatre. I also remember being absolutely blown away with this astounding work – and when the credits finally rolled, with no music accompanying them, I remained quite still in my seat, taking in what I just witnessed on screen. This movie made next to nothing at the box-office (estimated 1.3 million), so chances are you may not have seen it – but again, the purpose of this column is to urge film lovers to see these mighty achievements in film from yesteryear.

The film revolves around Sharon (an extraordinary Mimi Rogers), a telephone operator who is living a pretty unfulfilled life. Her job bores her to tears, and in the evening, she goes out with her male partner Vic (Patrick Bauchau), cruising the hot spots of Los Angeles in search of swingers to spend the evening with. Sharon is clearly not happy and begins to question her amoral lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Vic who is completely content with their behavior. Sharon comes into contact with a religious sect who inform her that a rapture is at hand, which sparks a massive awakening in her. She begins a completely new life as a born-again Christian, devoting herself completely to a higher power. We later see her with a handsome husband (a very young David Duchovny) and beautiful little girl. I won’t give away much more than that – because Tolkin’s impressive script throws a few curve balls at the viewer that we surely do not see coming. But I will say that after giving herself completely to God, Sharon turns and questions God’s compassion and goodwill – even with the possible end-of-the-world approaching. She believes she must take her daughter to the desert for this day of reckoning and here, she comes in contact with a concerned deputy (Will Patton), who looks after the two women in the unforgiving terrain, while mother and daughter wait.

This was Michael Tolkin’s directorial debut (he has since directed only one other feature film, while working chiefly as a screenwriter since) – and he presents us with a powerful and courageous film. This is surely a movie that goes places others dare not approach. And at the center of it is Mimi Rogers who is nothing short of sensational. I am always dumbfounded at her lack of recognition – especially after seeing her work here. She was surely robbed of a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this performance – her work here is uninhibited, brave, and overpowering. If for no other reason, people should see this solely to watch her – she is that riveting. Because of the strong sexual and violent content (not to mention the prominent religious themes), The Rapture is not a movie for everyone, that much is certain. But for those who appreciate daring independent films, put this one right on top of your rental queue.

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