Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Rolleston in Rehearsal for a different role

The Rehearsal, a local film involving many luminaries of acting, movie-making, literature and music is to have its world premiere at next month's New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland.

It is the feature adaptation of the 2008 first novel by Eleanor Catton, who won the Man Booker Prize for her second, The Luminaries.

And it's the first New Zealand feature by expatriate New York-based director Alison Maclean since 1992's Crush.

A scene from the movie The Rehearsal, which stars James Rolleston and Alice Englert.
A scene from the movie The Rehearsal, which stars James Rolleston and Alice Englert.

The film stars James Rolleston is in his first art house role, as naive drama school student Stanley. He's among an ensemble including Kerry Fox, Miranda Harcourt, Cohen Holloway and Tandi Wright.

It's also the big-screen acting debut of singer-songwriter Marlon Williams and YouTube star Jamie Curry.

The book, which has been adapted for the film by Maclean and novelist Emily Perkins, is about how the scandalous affair between a student and her tennis coach - a music teacher in the book - affects the students at a performing arts school where small-town guy Stanley has enrolled, and found himself out of his depth.

The film was shot last year in Auckland and is produced by Sydney-based Bridget Ikin (An Angel at My Table, Sherpa) and Trevor Haysom (In My Father's Den). It also marks the New Zealand feature debut of Alice Englert, actress daughter of director Jane Campion.

Catton wasn't involved in the writing of the screenplay but was consulted on drafts and she has a cameo role in the film.

It will be Rolleston's fourth feature after Boy, The Dead Lands and Dark Horse. His forthcoming fifth movie is the just-wrapped remake of Goodbye Pork Pie.

Both Maclean and Ikin consider the Rehearsal role is possibly his most testing yet.

"It demands so much of him and it's so challenging," Maclean told TimeOut on a set visit during production.

"The films that he has done have been more Maori stories and this is quite different. It is exciting to put him in a role where the fact that he is Maori is not the number one point."

Ikin: "In a way, it echoes the shift going on for him in his own life - he is more out of his comfort zone."

Author Eleanor Catton. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Author Eleanor Catton. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Of Williams, who plays one of Rolleston's drama school classmates and sings a song in the film, Maclean says: "He could deviate right now and become an actor."

The film involves an art-imitating-life hall of mirrors reflecting the original story's two main plot lines. And though it's likely to play best in front of an arthouse/festival audience, the film-makers hope the young cast will attract a young following too.

Ikin: "We are certainly not aiming at making a dark film. There are a lot of comic elements to it. It will be a provocative arthouse film with some comedy. There's a lot of juice in it. There's a lot of ideas."

Festival director Bill Gosden says they are thrilled to present a film that brings together "enough talent to constitute a real-world new wave".

"Like the novel, the film is as attentive to the misleading effect youthful nerve can have on the 'mature', as it is to the crises the teachers so blithely incite in the taught. It's also its own sharp, original thing, alive with ambiguity and cinematic verve."

The red carpet world premiere of The Rehearsal will take place at The Civic in Auckland on Saturday July 23 as part of the NZ International Film Festival, with cast and crew in attendance.

- TimeOut

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