Films about schools can often be predictable. A number of clichés can be applied to the systematic approach most directors take when creating a film about a school, or one that takes place inside a school. The usual happens in which boy meets girl, boy falls in love, they break up and ceremoniously get back together in the film’s ending scene. Boy initially disappoints parents only to make them proud in the finale. Boy is treated harshly by father/mother figure teacher, ultimately creating a bond and a relationship that closes the film with a very typical line like “You did good kiddo”. However, The Rehearsal digs a little deeper than the usual.
Initially a 2008 novel by Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries), the New Zealand set drama details the story of Stanley, a first year drama student who uses his girlfriend’s family crisis as the basis for his end of year play. A moral dilemma ensues as both Stanley and the audience start to form a feeling of sympathy for the family in turmoil.
The Rehearsal is an ambitious film, at times proving to be overly-ambitious as key moments are not presented in a way with triumph, partly due to the little music that is used. The biggest problem about this film however, is its ending. Parts of the film are unusual, with indie-like clips thrown in here and there and the music that is used being of the indie rock persuasion. However, the ending is as predictable as they come, with the disappointed audience hanging on for more, expecting this anticlimax to just be an introduction for the real finale. It's as if the film's director became confused half way through his low-budget indie flick and wanted Paramount to pick it up instead.
However, in comparison to other high school films, this particular 2016 offering is a mature, confident adaptation of the highs and lows. By exploring more than just high school romance and getting good grades, The Rehearsal allows its audience to view a haunting and raw side of adolescence that isn’t glamorised by the usual beautiful teenagers that Hollywood so often served. Instead, we have normal kids, no frills, no sparkles, just kids smoking pot, having sex and getting into trouble with parents. The harsh realities of “life after school” are excellently presented in the film with a tragic accident that takes place. Although - as mentioned before - the specific event could have benefited in a different way of unfolding; it is still a touching and overall moving cinematic scene that rips out your heart and stomps it on the floor. Ultimately, the real star of The Rehearsal is its wonderful cast: honest, real and believable - no cheap tricks or gimmicks.