Movie Review: The director of Jesus’ Son makes a pointless arthouse exercise with The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal, director Alison Maclean’s first feature since the 1999 Denis Johnson adaptation Jesus’ Son, is such a hodgepodge of arthouse references, arch distancing effects, and emotionally vacant wide-screen compositions that one could easily mistake it for an awkward debut film. James Rolleston stars as Stanley, a hunky first-year student at a prestigious New Zealand acting school who is encouraged by the combative, guru-like head instructor, Hannah (Kerry Fox), to develop a theater piece based on a local sex scandal that has engulfed the family of his underage girlfriend, Isolde (Ella Edward). Contrived as it may sound, this isn’t a bad premise. But every bit of inherent tension is dissipated by Maclean’s direction, which meanders from affectlessness to affectation, producing a blank mise en scène in which nothing behind or around the actors means anything, unless it literally says “Brecht” in big letters. The Rehearsal signifies and …

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