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Movie Review: The Rapture

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The tagline to this 1991 religious drama reads: “Rapture (rap’chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse.” Frankly, this may be one of the most appropriate feature film titles ever conceived; The Rapture is a daring amalgamation of sexuality, faith, and a resilient fundamentalist viewpoint of the End of Days.

While definition four from the tagline serves as the crux of the storyline, I highly doubt anyone will be experiencing definition one after viewing this imperfect and misguided allegory. While The Rapture may provoke a small amount of thought, concerning the word-for-word biblical outlook of Judgment Day, it may also provoke its viewers into a sheer state of annoyance and dissatisfaction.

Sharon (Mimi Rogers) is an information operator by day and a full-fledged adulterer by night. To escape the monotony of her day job, Sharon spends her evenings hunting for couples who are willing to engage in casual group sex with her and her friend Vic (Patrick Bauchau).

After a series of ménage a trois’ and foursomes, Sharon begins to feel a vacancy in her soul and starts to search for the purpose and meaning in her life. It is not until Sharon overhears a discussion of religion, encounters a pair of door-to-door evangelists, and nearly commits suicide, that she finds God and opens the gateways of her heart to Jesus. She ditches Vic and her sex-crazed lifestyle and converts Randy (David Duchoveny), one of her previous partners, from Atheist to Christian.

Fast forward six years. Sharon is now married to Randy and has a daughter named Mary (Kimberly Cullum). They are members of a fundamentalist sect that follow the every word of a prophesizing boy. Sharon, Randy, and Mary all adhere to the boy’s every word and as a result, anticipate the End of the World to transpire within one year. However, after Randy is suddenly murdered, Sharon takes her daughter to the desert to await the rapture that will raise them to Heaven.

Hats off to The Rapture for being an intimidating literal depiction of the Apocalypse, but shame on writer/director Michael Tolkin for creating a lead character that is impossible to feel sympathy for. After losing her husband, the action that Sharon executes is unsettling and deranged. At this instant and from here on, it is very easy to perceive the film’s main character as “Sharon the Psycho” and not “Sharon the Heroine.”

Substandard movies stem from substandard screenplays, and The Rapture is a perfect case in point. With a slew of clunky dialogue, an unexpected jump to six years later, and a cynical climax, writer/director Tolkin further fills up his bag of mistakes. In addition, The Rapture contains a set of sub-par special effects, a pushy score that tries to dictate how the audience should feel, and an unrealistic scene at a fast food window. In fact, at one point, I was unsure if the film was going to progress beyond appearing as an ad showing how long Mimi Rogers could hold smoke in her lungs and then blow it out through her nostrils.

With Mimi Rogers’ frenetic and overwrought role, The Rapture comes off as an occasionally enrapturing, yet second-rate, picture that doesn’t attempt to appeal to any set demographic. In the end, its portrayal of a woman’s journey from sin to salvation and back – that all-the-while contains the challenging themes of hedonism, self-discovery, and religious zealotry – is unnerving, yet in the long-run unrewarding. (** out of ****)

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About Brandon Valentine

  • Actually, I found Mimi’s character to be sympathetic, and the film to be thought-provoking, hence, very rewarding.

    THE RAPTURE depicts Christianity in complex terms, without sugar-coating it, yet without demonizing it, and in a manner that is ultimately sympathetic.

    Other Christian-themed films with this complexity include THE APOSTLE and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.

    All three films are very pro-Christian, and respectful of Christianity, despite protests against them.

    I was also very moved by THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Perhaps that makes me odd, liking THE PASSION as well as those other films.

  • Vern Halen

    (Note: ending spoiler alert for those who might want to see this film.)

    This is the ONLY movie I’ve ever been to that when it was over, the nearly – full theatre emptied out in complete silence. Although the movie is a flawed allegory of the Christian concept of judgement (as you pointed out), I think the ending makes its point – if you really don’t want to go to heaven, you don’t go.

  • Brandon. Since you usually pick good films and then write well about them; I was shocked to see The Rapture connected to your byline.

    Happily you were as unimpressed with this “imperfect and misguided allegory” as I was. The only thing you did better was to actually sit through it to the end.

    I couldn’t.

  • Sly

    It’s one of my favorite films, yes, flawed, but it’s got a LOT on its mind… and you missed it.

  • Doug

    Answer: Freewill She is in the desert, prison, etc. etc. asking why and the film never says why. The reason is God’s gift of freewill. The movie writer or whoever doesn’t understand theodicy. Also the so-called believer is not born-again but a heretic on the fringe of Christianity following a cult. You don’t go to Heaven because you say you love God, you go to Heaven “without judgment” because you “TRUST” in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life and not your own good works.

  • Atheist for Jesus

    Glad you cleared that up for us, Doug.
    Switch “trust” for “love,” “God” for “Jesus,” and it’s redundant. Same parlor tricks, get-out-of-jail-free garbage that’s so appealing to those inclined to sin.
    By sin, I mean in the real sense of mistreating others, not abstracted silliness. Jesus only value to us is as a great Humanist and teacher, not as a pagan idol demanding abject grovelling to get in to ‘heaven’.
    The ironic paradox at the end is NOT about faith and doubt, since obviously zero doubt remains – at least in her mind – in regard to the reality of the Apocalypse.
    Whether or not we are seeing a genuine End of Times or the fantastic delusions of a desperate, ill, starving and dehydrated broken figure is irrelevant, because either way she makes her choice after being teased and tricked within the constraints of a faith she valiantly tried to keep. She never doubts her own experience at all (a very different film would go there instead), but rightfully challenges the worthiness of any God who puts simple trusting folks like her thru such convoluted theological gymnastics. She deserves some answer, as do we all, because a God who fails to put Justice over Obeisance deserves no love from us.
    Her final act may symbolize mankind’s victory over superstition, and the “forever” we have to choose, over primitive faith in the rantings of false prophets.