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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Groove
Groove
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Review by Heather Picker | posted December 18, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Greg Harrison's Groove, which was the buzz of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, reinforces the Spitfire Grill theorem, which is: The people at Sundance will lavish anything you put on the screen with superfluous praise. Why is it that average, and even sub-par films receive glowing receptions at the festival? 'Tis a question that I fear will not be answered until long after an explanation is given as to why it has taken the public so long to turn their box-office dollar-spending backs on ├╝ber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Early in the year rave films were all the rage, as evident by the releases Human Traffic and the documentary Better Living Through Circuitry. Perhaps it was that underground frenzy for the rave film that made audiences to eager to embrace an effort as miniscule are Groove. The film, written and directed by Greg Harrison (who also produced and edited), shows what happens when the sun sets on a Saturday night and two brothers, one a mainstay in rave culture, Colin (Denny Kirkwood), and another a reticent first-time participant, David (Hamish Linklater), and a handful of other characters we are given no reason to care about, attend a rave.

Nothing unexpected happens; there is dancing, drug-consumption and lots of water-drinking. Oh, and David meets Leyla (Lola Glaudini), a beautiful girl who has lost years of her life underground, clubbing for elusive bliss. Will the two live happily ever after? Linklater's performance is so hollow that you'll probably hope the storyline quickly resolves itself so you don't have to watch him try to emote. Colin pops the question to his girlfriend of five months, fellow raver Harmony (Mackenzie Firgens), and then promptly makes out with a guy when his bride-to-be isn't around. I understand that this had to occur, for spoilerish reasons I will not divulge, but the payoff is slight enough that again, we're left with an essentially useless plot.

The rest of the film is attempts at subplots, none of which amount to anything because they are given very little screen time. A couple celebrates their eleven month anniversary, and various DJs appear behind the turntable, captured by a camera that acknowledges their presence but not beyond the most superficial level. We watch them set up shop briefly, and then the camera's interest turns to the groovin' masses on the warehouse floor. Harrison apparently knew what he wanted to do with the film, but I can't figure it out. I feel as though he was well-intentioned, but his portrayal of the rave scene seems too cheerfully whitewashed. Raves aren't all bizarre clothes, pulsing beats, and sweaty bodies. Drug use is shown but the consequences are largely ignored. Not feeling well? Drink some water.

After watching Groove I happened to be flipping through the channels and came across an episode of MTV's Real Life entitled "I'm on Ecstasy" (the rave scene's drug of choice). One of the Ecstasy users whom the cameras followed around was a young woman who had once lived to attend raves and take the drug, which took its toll on her brain, forcing her to separate herself entirely from raves to break free from the drug and begin rehabilitation. She went to see Groove with her boyfriend and had to leave before it was over because she felt ill. As they left the theater her testimony confirmed what I had thought as I watched the movie; that Harrison's view of raves is more ideological than realistic. In itself, I have no problem with that; one of the most wonderful things about film is the endless possibilities of worlds that can be created within the space of ninety minutes. When those worlds are as vacant as Groove, I would rather go somewhere else.

DVD Review: Groove is available as a groovy special edition, released by Columbia with a SRP of $24.95. The anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) was overseen and approved by director Greg Harrison. The image is clear and, for the most part, crisp. Flesh tones are natural and the rave lighting was well-preserved. If you prefer, you can watch the film in full-screen.

Audio-wise there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, an English 2-channel track and a French language track. Groove has a soundtrack that I personally thought was better than the film, and it sounds wonderful on DVD; full and rich. Likewise, the dialogue is crystal clear. Harrison, the producer and the cinematographer provide a running commentary that often broaches the subject of low-budget filmmaking. Some of the same anecdotes that appear in the 2-page production booklet are also shared. Also on the audio-front: an isolated music score.

English and French subtitles, a short featurette of behind-the-scenes footage, extended and deleted scenes featuring optional director's commentary, a web link, theatrical trailers (for Groove, Go and The Craft), talent files, casting auditions and a photo gallery round out the extras. Fans of the film will not be disappointed by the feature-packed DVD, but anyone interested in seeing it is better off renting first.
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