The Rapture (1991) (R)

Christian based movies are notoriously and almost unanimously bad. There isn't a single movie that is solely about the Christian walk that has yet to impress both critical and public audiences and rarely do they do either. So how odd for us to see "The Rapture" calmly sitting in the 90s, and not only is a Christian movie about the Christian faith, it's more than that....much, much more.
I was raised in a Christian church family. For eighteen years of my life, it was just life. My departure from religion has always felt very personal and something that I'd rather not expound upon at length when talking about movies—it's too random. Yet with "The Rapture", I find that finally I have a voice, a voice in a movie. While I still won't bore you with my details, "The Rapture" manages to deftly walk many, many lines between gentle satire, flat-out-mockery, sincere belief, and grievous doubt.
The thing that sets "The Rapture" apart from every other Christian movie out there is it's focus on doctrine. This is the only main stream movie that you will find the deep and tangled mess that is eschatology.
First things first....I'm the realest...sorry, I couldn't resist. Okay, first things first, "The Rapture" has theological issues. It presents to us a story that is set with the background of the book of Revelations. Being very familiar with the book itself, writer/director Michael Tolkin takes a few liberties with the actual fundamental interpretation of the scripture. The biggest example of this is references made to a pearl and a young boy who could presumably be the antichrist, though those thoughts fade.
Sharon (Mimi Rogers, handling a role that less able actresses would have ruined) works as a phone operator. She likes to have a good time and hedonism is not a far stretch for her. She and her male lover will go to bars and try to pick up other couples and swap partners with them for nights of sexual fantasy, They live in these sensuous cocoons and Sharon is not too content there. With the feeling that something greater is waiting for her, Sharon starts to overhear about "the end times" and Jesus. Bemused, she tries to engage in conversations with these Christians; but brings her own bias to the table. She has the questions that everyone has: if I'm a good person, why am I going to hell? It doesn't seem fair for a merciful God to send everyone to hell...etc. etc.
But Sharon's exploration has her stumble onto something else: belief. After a few days of consideration and a nightly vision of a something heavenly, Sharon becomes a devout believer and sets her heart onto saving everyone so that they may know the truth as well.
She attempts to save one of the men she had a relationship with, Randy (David Duchovny); but he isn't interested. Instead, she uses her job to witness to people; and soon she has uncovered a network of people who are Christian; but all with the same wary conclusion that the end times are upon us.
The rapture itself is a flagrant misinterpretation of the scriptures at worst and at best, it's stretching the limits of what is permissible in theology. The word "rapture" is never used in the Bible and the scriptures that the entire philosophy that is just taken for granted as truth are very few and the are up for different opinions.
With "The Rapture", Michael Tolkin uses the power of doubt to its utmost and severest extreme.
Having been immersed in this culture for so long I can testify that his portrayal of zealot Christians is not accentuated; but dead-on accurate. The consuming, burning desire to tell everyone about Jesus. The need to end and begin every conversation with God, the interconnected it brings you to with other members of the faith...yes, those are all true.
What Tolkin does that isn't okay is overplay the zealotry of belief. Rational Christians do exist, though I am starting to believe that their number is dwindling. He brings in the exotic, the mystical, and combines a magical-style to the commanding scripture. He does this so subtly that it works rather well. Alas, his antics seem to convey a crisis of his own faith.
The ending might surprise you and certainly closes a door in Tolkin's personal life that I doubt can ever be reopened. I sympathize much with Sharon, because her story is mine too.
"The Rapture" is heavy drama meeting fantasy meeting religion. It handles its delicate story so brashly that you have to respect it for even trying. Oh, and it's a good drama.

Score: ★★★

No comments:

Post a Comment