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Michael Tolkin's "The Rapture"
December 8, 2011 7:15 PM   Subscribe

(MAJOR SPOILERS EVERYWHERE) [Michael Tolkin's The Rapture] is one of the most radical, infuriating, engrossing, challenging movies I've ever seen. There are people who love it and many who hate it, but few who can remain on the sidelines. ... Movies are often so timid. They try so little, and are content with small achievements. "The Rapture" is an imperfect and sometimes enraging film, but it challenges us with the biggest idea it can think of, the notion that our individual human lives do have actual meaning on the plane of the infinite. - Roger Ebert
posted by Trurl (54 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw this in the theater when it came out. (Well, okay, it was the local art theater, and I saw everything that came there for a few years.)

It was one of the most memorable films out of all those I saw there. Shocking and stunning and disturbing and thought-provoking.

I can't say that I exactly recommend it, as it isn't an easy thing... but I feel my life is somehow richer for having seen it.
posted by hippybear at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw it at a regular non-art house theater. I really liked it but I have no idea how it ever got a distributor.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:34 PM on December 8, 2011


(Paraphrase some critic): "Charges in where angels fear to tread..."
posted by ovvl at 7:42 PM on December 8, 2011


Hmm. A brief, furtive glance at the plot summary on Wikipedia wouldn't seem to indicate anything particularly special about this film. Must netflix this one.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:43 PM on December 8, 2011


I rented it when it first came out on VHS, having no idea whatsoever as to what it would be about. My girlfriend and I grabbed snacks and sat down to watch it.

When the credits rolled, we sat on the sofa in silence for a minute, then she turned to me and said, "You are never allowed to pick out the movie, never again."

She went to bed and shut the door, I hit rewind and watched it again.
posted by mkhall at 7:47 PM on December 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I saw this late at night on IFC once years ago, knowing nothing about it. Probably the best way to view it, I think. Coming at it that way it was mesmerizing, though I don't know how I'd have felt about it if I had gone in prepared to be challenged or shocked. Reminded me a bit of the end of a Clockwork Orange in a way.
posted by Diablevert at 7:49 PM on December 8, 2011


This is so 1991.
posted by stbalbach at 7:50 PM on December 8, 2011


I saw this in its original run, too. I'd spent time when I was younger around a friend whose family were members of an apocalyptic cult, and I was still working my way through my own conservative Catholic upbringing when this movie was released. There's something about being around people who are feverishly jonesing for the Apocalypse that, even if you think you're outside that belief system, really messes with your head after a while. I think it helped me let go of religious belief for once and for all, and I'll be forever thankful to Tolkin for that.
posted by biddeford at 7:50 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this movie. It's such a challenging movie to watch.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:53 PM on December 8, 2011


I enjoyed this film but I never believed the ending, that the Mimi Rogers character would come to such a decision after what she had gone through and what she suddenly knows by the end. But maybe that was the point of the film. I could see how if she decided to go the other way, then the film would have just been no different from say a Jack Chick comic.
posted by cazoo at 7:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the time, it was freaky to see Agent Mulder's nutsack. Little did any of us suspect that one day it and its fictional adventures would form the foundation of an entire premium cable TV series.

It's a good movie that dares to take its subject matter at face value and ask seriously, and (and I think this is very important) without condescension, What if all this stuff were the truth? I may have to watch it again now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:55 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think what people are saying is, if you haven't seen this film and want to... close the window now and come back after you've seen it.
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Saw this on its first run also. It's one of those films that comes back on me like a faded old recurring nightmare.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:10 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this film but I never believed the ending
Cazoo, most of the people I know who've seen this* feel the same way, but for me Sharon's choice the only reasonable, humane option, in spite of what it ends up costing her. She's the Bartleby of the born agains.

*all 3 of them
posted by biddeford at 8:11 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hated this movie. It's not really a story with a character arc. More like dorm room bullshit writ large. "Hey, man. What if it was real, dude?"

A better character arc would have the Rapture happening in the first five minutes, and then she makes her choice, and we ask what happens then?

Eternity in the desert saying fuck you to God? That's what a teenager thinks would be cool.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I...really didn't think anyone thought that was cool. It's a pretty wrenching ending, to me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Eternity in the desert saying fuck you to God?
Wow... that's really not the way the ending read to me, but to each his own.
posted by biddeford at 8:44 PM on December 8, 2011


saying fuck you to God? That's what a teenager thinks would be cool.

Also others.
posted by Trurl at 8:53 PM on December 8, 2011


I remember enjoying this movie twenty years ago, mainly because it was my first exposure to the luminous Mimi Rogers. Probably would have to see it again now that I'm no longer in my 20s to get a more fully formed opinion.
posted by PapaLobo at 8:58 PM on December 8, 2011


This is a powerful film, for sure, pushing some pretty huge buttons and pretty fearlessly so. I was lucky enough to go in blind, as it were, having just heard it was worth seeing - in retrospect, the first half of the film, the fierce seeking of Mimi Rogers' character, the business about 'the pearl'... that's the stuff that really got to me, moreso than the later, more extravagant, half.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:00 PM on December 8, 2011


I remember this movie. I was an atheist anyway but I became convinced that any god who creates such a world as that of the movie really wouldn't deserve my faith.
posted by yesster at 9:12 PM on December 8, 2011


I always thought this was a perfect movie for Mimi Rogers, who always seems to have an incredulous, puzzled look in whatever role she plays in whatever movie. Even in Austin Powers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on December 8, 2011


I'm surprised to have never heard of this. I shall seek it out.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:29 PM on December 8, 2011


I also saw it when it first came out. More than once, I think, in the theatre in the UT Austin student union. I remember two things: The sex, and the ending. Everything else is lost. And I think that might mean the filmmakers won?
posted by mudpuppie at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2011


Weird coincidence seeing this posted on MeFi. DVR'd it a couple weeks ago. Remembered seeing bits and pieces decades ago, mostly the sex at the beginning and the horsemen at the end. I just watched the first half last night, but needed an emotional breather so I had to stop. Didn't erase it, though, because it was engrossing enough that I want to finish it.
posted by msacheson at 9:47 PM on December 8, 2011


My first job was in an arthouse-ish movieplex. When this movie came out, it did fairly well--enough to stick around for several weeks at least. One afternoon a woman who had watched the entire film came out to demand a refund on her ticket. She didn't pay five bucks, she said, to watch some religious movie. This wasn't the first complaint we'd gotten, as the original poster has a definite 'erotic thriller' feel. We started to joke about putting a warning sticker on it: yes, that Rapture.
posted by lovecrafty at 10:02 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Like others here, I saw this movie because of Mimi Rogers, whom I had been infatuated after having seen Someone To Watch Over Me. It was unsettling, to say the least, but it did expose me to Jobim and for that, I'm grateful.
posted by xigxag at 10:04 PM on December 8, 2011


I loved the movie - not the least of all for the matter of fact way the Rapture and Sharon's choice is presented to her. It feels real yet you are incredulous at the same time. Is this REALLY happening? Today - the amount of crazy CGI that would have been injected into the final scenes would have rendered the movie into Rapturous Transformers.
posted by helmutdog at 10:18 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I saw this about ten years ago. I remember I kept thinking it was weird and boring, and "what the fuck was Duchovny thinking doing this pos movie?" Then the rapture happened and I was pissed I wasted all that time watching it and the lady was an idiot. Maybe I'll give it a go again someday, but the rapture may actually happen before it makes it to the short list.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:52 PM on December 8, 2011


I love this movie and saw it at the Toronto Film Festival. Tolkin's a great writer--he wrote the book/screenplay for The Player and has a few others to his name as well. He says he was driving along the highway and the car in front of him had a bumper sticker that read, "In case of Rapture, this car will be abandoned" and he immediately pulled over and started writing the screenplay.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:56 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought Will Patton gave an indelible performance. I was extremely conflicted about many other parts of the film, and few films have ever made me feel that way.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on December 8, 2011


You know what? I take that back. I watched Broken Embraces last night, and I'm still reeling from how good it was. There is waaay to godamn* much good cinema out there waiting to be seen. The rapture will happen before I voluntarily watch this movie again.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:00 PM on December 8, 2011


*get it?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:01 PM on December 8, 2011


Oh yeah! I always associate this movie with Todd Hayne's Safe for some reason.

I will have to re-watch them, thanks for reminding me.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:19 PM on December 8, 2011


Oh man, I have only the vaguest memories of half-watching this once when it was playing on HBO sometime in the 90s. I must've been working on a painting or project and this was on in the background and I'd just pay attention every now and then. But I seem to remember that it was very weird and events were jarring and unexpected.

It goes in the queue. The big, big, queue.
posted by zardoz at 11:25 PM on December 8, 2011


I saw this ages ago as a younger lad, and was always struck by how simultaneously powerful and weirdly stilted the entire production was - this deliberate affectation of something almost like caricature in the characters. The movie itself presents as a parable, is what I eventually settled on. And the ending was so spectacularly potent; the demonstration of how the actual manifestation of a god necessitates by definition the death of faith. And without faith and its ability to handwave away the complications of divinity, how can you weigh the culpability of an active holy agency with the horrors of the real world? Just a lot of interesting questions to bubble around in my young teenage mind.

I watched it again recently and noticed another interesting thing - there's a lot of references to seeing a pearl in dreams as a signal of the coming rapture. I had always associated that with the Mormonic 'Pearl of Great Price', but apparently a more appropriate reference would be Revelation 21:21, describing the gates of New Jerusalem: "The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."
posted by FatherDagon at 11:33 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ Tolkin also wrote Deep Cover with Lawrence Fishburn and Jeff Goldblum . Best known for the theme song "Deep Cover" by Dr Dre featuring the first appearance by snoop I think. "yeah and you don't stop cuz it's 187 on an undercover cop"

Another re-watch.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:35 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's interesting -- I saw this when it came out and haven't thought about it for years, but on being reminded of it by this post some of the images came back so strongly and vividly. The pearl tattooed on the back of the woman at the beginning, and the look on Mimi Rogers' face when she makes her decision, and the sound of the wind and the horses at the end.
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:14 AM on December 9, 2011


I saw it, late at night, on IFC some years ago. I had nightmares for weeks; it poked some kind of freaky spot in my brain, and even watching the trailer was enough to make me worry for my sleep tonight.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 3:23 AM on December 9, 2011


I saw this on the front page, and thought... hmm, new movie? The Rapture? That wouldn't be the same as that movie, oh, yeah, it was.

Odd movie. I agree about the stilted acting (though, with Duchovny, I'm not sure there's any other kind) and the general amateurish feeling to it. The only movie I've seen since that has the same vibe would be The Southland Tales. I liked it, but it definitely could have been done better, I think. I loved the ending, though.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:26 AM on December 9, 2011


I also saw this in the theater when it came out. I really wanted to like it. I was hoping for Religion NOT for Dummies. I was let down. God was as disappointing as sex. The God that can be filmed is not the real God, I guess.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:52 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also saw this in the theater when it came out. I really wanted to like it. I was hoping for Religion NOT for Dummies. I was let down. God was as disappointing as sex. The God that can be filmed is not the real God, I guess.

Interesting; I thought it was alone among the flicks I have seen in treating both God and swinging with an equally measured seriousness. Who was it who said that reading theology was like reading pornography -- instructive, engaging, provocative, but it pales in comparison with encountering the real thing?

It is an odd and fascinating movie. I have seen it three or four times now in the last twenty years -- most recently a few months back -- and it holds up (for me at least) every time. I'd say it is hardly fair to call it "stilted" or "boring": my thinking is that by all rights a movie where people have very earnest discussions about their duty to God should have the weird Davey-and-Goliath aura that the Kirk Cameron apocalypse movies do, but this is notably more compelling.

And helmutdog is right upthread when he mentions that if it had been made today with a final reel full of CGI, it would be less effective. One of the things I like about it is naturalistic approach to eschatology. As soon as I saw the topic of this FPP, the defining image that always comes to mind for this movie returned to me: the bars of the jail cells falling away like a house of cards as Gabriel's trump sounds.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:33 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tolkin's CV is kind of mind-blowing: The Player, yes yes, The Rapture, oh good, The New Age, mmmmm, Deep Cover, aw yeah ...... Gleaming the Cube? Deep Impact?

I must admit I watched the Rapture because of Duchovny. The nutsack was not weird. The mullet. The mullet was weird.

The thing I love about the film is that it manages to encompass several of the perplexing yet resonant principles that caused me to lose faith in god, almost concurrently with my first viewing but certainly not because of it. These two quotes, from Ebert and FatherDagon, wrap it up.

If we lived in full belief and full consciousness of such an eternity, surely life would drive us mad. The risk of damnation would be too great to allow a moment's relaxation, and indeed some of the saints seem to have been deranged by such fears, their insanity passing for holiness. The great courageous act of Tolkin's "The Rapture" is to consider such questions in a film that is not overtly "religious" at all.

And the ending was so spectacularly potent; the demonstration of how the actual manifestation of a god necessitates by definition the death of faith. And without faith and its ability to handwave away the complications of divinity, how can you weigh the culpability of an active holy agency with the horrors of the real world?

Kudos to Tolkin for creating it, and to New Line Cinema, who made this, My Own Private Idaho, Glengarry Glen Ross, Fire Walk with Me, and Menace II Society in the span of just two years.
posted by heatvision at 7:22 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, this really reminds me of going to the art house theater all the time, not even knowing what you were going to see. This was one of the films that surprised me.
posted by orme at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2011


Circa 1991, I showed this to a very small alt-high school World Religions class. (I skipped the sex parts.) Seriously the class was small. I think there was one Jewish kid, one Wiccan, one Christian, and one atheist. We had fun.

I also had them read the Tao of Pooh. hehehe.
posted by RedEmma at 8:15 AM on December 9, 2011


I should clarify: I skipped the *explicit* sex parts. They knew she was a swinger.
posted by RedEmma at 8:17 AM on December 9, 2011


Saw it at in LA when it came out. Present in the theater, in the front row, were some Jesus people (all young guys) who (in the beginning) were making loud comments about the sinners on-screen. They dummied up as the film went on, and when the lights came up they all left, silent and looking downcast.
posted by Rash at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2011


Saw this at the Angelika when it first came out; I think there were about 10 people in the theatre.

I've never forgotten it. Mimi Rogers is wonderful, but the last scene is the aspect of the film that I think will remain with me till they plant me. Don't ask Tolkin to meet you halfway!

It was also my introduction to real (not Musak) bossa. My 20-something self said, "WHAT IS THAT MUSIC? I MUST HAVE IT NOW!"

The late '80's and early '90's were such a fantastic period for indie film. We have a lot of great indie/foreign films being made today, but maybe that time period stays with me because films that brave were pretty much new to me then.

For another thoughtful discussion of the film, check out this blog post by Chicago-based film blogger Marilyn Ferdinand.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:17 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a good movie that dares to take its subject matter at face value and ask seriously, and (and I think this is very important) without condescension, What if all this stuff were the truth?

Tom Perrotta's newest book, The Leftovers, deals with the aftermath of The Rapture in a very pragmatic, non-religious way. It made for some very interesting conversation at our house.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:45 PM on December 9, 2011


Am...am I the only person here who rented this with her squealing teenage homegirls to see more nude shots of David Duchovny than were available elsewhere?

Huh. Guess I'll show myself out.
posted by troublesome at 1:33 AM on December 10, 2011


Um thanks for making me watch this mefi! *long stare*
I'll give it points for daring, but basically it felt like I could've saved time by having a 5 minute conversation with an atheist whose basic statement is "OK, but even if God existed, I'd hate him anyway for causing so much suffering and having so many arbitrary rules." Not exactly a sentiment we haven't all heard (or thought) before.
posted by naju at 11:10 PM on December 10, 2011


Just finished watching this.

[SPOILERS]
The climactic scene when she shoots her kid, and the kid is crying about seeing her daddy and all that. Jesus. That kid's voice was like the sound of Satan crying for help.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like a disillusioned, post-modern take on the medieval morality play.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:26 PM on December 13, 2011


If you haven't seen this with the Commentary, you should do so at once. Duchovny is hilarious.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


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