The Rapture (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Scoop's notes in white:
I often complain that too many movies are safe, formulaic, and afraid to deal with any serious ideas.
After having watched this film, which cannot be accused of any of those flaws, I'm starting to think that originality and daring are overrated.
Mimi Rogers plays a lusty swinger who has a tedious day job as a telephone operator. Wild nocturnal sex helps her survive a life filled with boring, endlessly repetitious days. As the film progresses, however, she comes to the realization that she doesn't really like her wild nights any more than her mild days, and it dawns on her that her life is filled with ennui and anomie and all that existential French stuff, and that she needs something more.
Enter religion. She starts to overhear conversations between evangelical Christians about Judgment Day, the rapture, the "pearl of great price" which is seen in the dreams of the chosen, and "the boy" - a juvenile prophet who seems to know God's will. Mimi starts to pretend that she has been born again, just because she needs God in her life, but the Christian cultists know that she is faking. The fact that they could spot her chicanery intrigues her - if they can spot false claims immediately and conclusively, then they must know which claims are genuine! If there are genuine revelations from God, then the whole religious experience must be real. God must be real. From this thought process, her apocryphal faith becomes genuine faith, and she becomes an extreme Christian, smiling ever placidly in God's love, and asking every stranger if he has taken Jesus into his heart. She even manages to convert one of her old swinging partners (David Duchovny) to Christianity, after which they marry and have a daughter, whereupon the plot jumps forward six years.
Mimi is distraught, but is apparently told by God that she will see her husband soon enough, since Judgment Day is nigh. In fact, God is quite specific in the instructions he gives Mimi in her dreams. Mimi is to flee to the desert with her daughter and await further instructions. When she gets to the desert, she hangs around for a while until God decides to use the ol' Abraham trick again, and instructs her to kill her daughter. This is God's equivalent of the SAT exam, a pre-screening for admission to his trusted circle. Sadly for Mimi, God has come up with a new variation on the test since Abraham's day, and does not stay her hand.
The police don't accept "following God's command" as a legal defense, so they toss Mimi in the local calaboose.
After those last two operatic plot twists, things have certainly gotten much crazier than they were earlier on the film, but the story is still grounded in reality. If the film ended right then and there, it would not be very lively, but would be a sad and fairly insightful commentary about a woman filling up the void in her life with religious belief. People really do this, of course, and the process is pictured in a reasonably realistic way (as far as I know). The film seems to show the extreme danger in religious fanaticism, leading ultimately to a woman's murder of her beloved daughter.
Then the film takes a truly wild right turn.
It turns out that Mimi was not deluded in any way. Everything she believed was true, and it really was God who asked her to kill her daughter. The End Times are pictured precisely as described in The Book of Revelations, horsemen and all. Mimi is led to the gateway of heaven, where her daughter meets her and invites her to join the saved, provided that she professes her love for God.
Only one problem. She doesn't love God any more. She had been losing her faith upon consideration of the world's suffering, and she lost it completely after God asked her to kill her daughter. As the angelic spirit of the daughter fades from view, the ghastly girl pleads with her mother, "please, mommy, say you love God. If you don't, do you know how long you'll have to wait to see me and daddy in heaven?"
"Yes", says Mimi resignedly, followed by a very long pause and the single word, "forever".
She stands alone on a cliff, surrounded by blackness. The stygian void.
Fade to black. Roll credits.
No matter your opinion of this plot, you have to admit one thing. This is not a typical Hollywood formula picture. It runs with a truly crazed premise - "You know those people who knock on your door and ask you if you have accepted Jesus as your savior? The clean-cut ones with the eerie smiles and the cheap suits? Well, what if they are right?"
Atypical, unexpected elements of the film:
I think the premise is absolutely demented, but I
have to admit grudgingly that I admire the courage of the film in
carrying that bizarre premise to the proper and logical conclusions.
Having said that, let me hasten to add that I am not a religious person, and I found this film to
be utter gibberish. I really couldn't get into it even when I
thought it was a work of social realism about our need for God and
the negative effects which can result from that need. At that point
I thought it was just a melodrama which also happened to be as
pedantic as an after-school special.
When it turned out that all of her craziness was not crazy at all, the film lost me completely. The only thing I found truly effective was the last twenty seconds, which really surprised me and hooked me in emotionally, in the same manner as a surprise Twilight Zone ending.
Roger Ebert gave this film four stars and praised it to the hilt. I have to say that I could not disagree more, and can't even imagine a thought process which could lead to four stars for this film, but Roger is a spiritual man and I am not, so you may be able to determine from that whether you will fall into my camp or his. In all fairness, the film is rated a most respectable 6.7 at IMDb, and received several other good reviews, so there were many in Ebert's camp, not so many in mine.
|Tuna's comments in
As a quick recap, the
first act portrays a woman who is a bored information assistance
operator by day, and an unhappy swinger at night. In act two, she
accepts Jesus as her personal lord and savior, gets married and has a
child. Act three is the kicker, where her husband is killed, and she
becomes convinced that God has called her to the rapture at a remote
desert location. She takes her daughter, and waits for God, who is a no
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