In Rainbow Time, writer/director Linas Phillips tackles more than just romantic unrest. Throughout his relationship dramedy, characters wallow in post-divorce uncertainty, but also tussle with the bonds of family and mental disability. An idealistic reality of perfection floats loftily out of reach in Phillips’ world, as characters valiantly strive for their “best” – a situational imprisonment that shuns individuality.
Or, Rainbow Time is about two brothers coming to terms with their more one-sided connection, where Todd (Timm Sharp) stops brushing his brother Shonzi (Linas Phillips) off as his “slower” brother. There is love between the two, buried under Todd’s more pertinent desire to keep girlfriend Lindsay (Melanie Lynskey) happy. But where Todd plays bad cop to Shonzi’s short-sighted take on life, Lindsay sees minunderstanding. She tries to transform his obsession with making home movies into a learning experience about treating women with respect, not as sexual objects. Shonzi is more used to being yelled at or told something is wrong, but Lindsay stresses learning and understanding. Of course, Shonzi’s random actions and gigantic mouth end up being quite the buzzkill, even though the 40-year-old’s intentions are pure. Dirty sex talk and constant passes at Lindsay included.
It’s taken me two days to formulate this review, largely due to the grand scope of this contained, Duplass-produced indie. Todd and Lindsay can’t just be in a tense relationship – Todd worries that Lindsay will someday up-and-leave like she did to her ex-husband (for him). On the other hand, Lindsay occupies herself instead of self-centering – she goes right from being in a terrible marriage to living with Todd. Shonzi is like a firecracker thrown in the middle of two lovers already walking on broken glass, forcing both parties to embrace past dramas and future fears together. Luckily, Lynskey and Sharp end up striking a tip-toeing chemistry as the two on-edge partners (Todd and Lindsay), finding ways to remain grounded and sincere amidst their mumblecore-influenced craziness.
Of course, this is all while Todd and Shonzi’s father (played by Tobin Bell) recovers from a strenuous medical episode, and while Shonzi learns to respect female boundaries. Todd and Lindsay distract themselves with personal missions instead of dealing with their own issues, only increasing the pressure bottled inside each character. Lindsay tries to play modern-day mother to Shonzi’s 40-year-old manchild, who is described as “slower” due to oxygen deprivation in the womb. His attempts at seduction are aggressive and forceful, forward to the point of creepiness. Todd feels bad for Shonzi because he’ll never be granted a normal life, while Lindsay attempts to grant Shonzi the same sweet moments of life everyone should enjoy. This causes tension between the frustrated Todd and more caring Lindsay, wedging Shonzi between the two people he’s trying desperately to “help.”
It’s Phillips’ portrayal of Shonzi that defines Rainbow Time. You want to laugh at certain points, because comedy is intended – then you recognize the scenario, and awkwardness settles in. Shonzi talks about his cousin being “wet” and creepily spies on Todd during intimate moments, highlighting the social miscues he’s been leading his life by. Family members tolerate Shonzi’s remarks, but Lindsay is the only one who makes an attempt to guide him towards better living.
It’s with this warmness that Phillips does his best work, as Shonzi strives to understand Lindsay’s teachings. Some of the humor comes off as overkill – obscure and perverse to the point of beating a dead horse – but Shonzi’s pure heart finds a way to remain genuine in Phillips’ performance for the better. It’s a respectful portrayal of a unique individual, never feeling truly out-of-tune.
Then again, we’re talking about a movie where two characters make home movies involving penis reattachment, murder and love. Rainbow Time is all over the place dramatically, but somehow Linas Phillips ties together a sometimes wacky, otherwise off-beat family dramedy from perspectives unknown. Phillips’ portrayal of Fonzie-loving Shonzi may divide audiences, but Melanie Lynskey is worth more than the price of admission. Performances are key to a film brimming with the weirdness and unpredictability life throws at us, but a social responsibility rings truest come Phillips’ sunny ending. And if none of that is enough, there’s a handicapped Corgi named Pizza, so why are you still reading? Puppy in a wheelchair rig! Rainbow Time has it all – for better or worse.
Rainbow Time may try to do a bit to much dramatically, but there's a Corgi in a wheelchair rig named Pizza, so what are you waiting for?