SXSW Film Review – Rainbow Time
Rainbow Time is about two brothers trying to achieve a semblance of control through the lens of a camera, where any insecurity can be spliced, edited, and erased. Rather than strengthening their relationships with their subjects, it only obfuscates the roles they play in real life.
Linas Phillips (Bass Ackwards, Shawnsey’s Revenge), is the writer, director, and star of this comedy-drama about being a spectator in your own life, either by choice or relegation. As Shonzi, a 40-year-old virgin with developmental impairments, he has an uncanny radar for detecting people’s perceptions of him and responds in kind. As long as his dad, Peter (Tobin Bell), whom he lives with, allows him to mouth and slack off, he’s going to do it. As long as his brother, Todd (Timm Sharp) backs down from every argument, he’s going to approach each scuffle with the obstinacy of a bull. Shonzi has been alternately coddled and tolerated for so long after his mother’s death that he has constructed this insular bubble of creativity from which his stories come, but which also shapes his interactions with others.
Shonzi is an aspiring filmmaker whose production company is called “Rainbow Time.” He writes, films, and stars in stories about tough guys and damsels in distress. When Todd brings Lindsay (Melanie Lynskey), his girlfriend of six months, home for a visit, he has prepared her for Shonzi’s filmmaking obsession, and she is cheerfully willing to participate. She obviously hasn’t heard the voicemail on Todd’s phone where Shonzi asks if she would be willing to do “tasteful nudity” because it would be “good for the story.” Shonzi storyboards and blocks his scenes with homemade miniatures of himself and damsels in distress with figures resembling a Russ Meyer chorus girl. His idol is Fonzi from “Happy Days” (hence his nickname), who colors his performances as the cool, unflappable lead with the shades and the biggest gun. Through his lens, he can control how he is perceived and interact with people in a way he can not in real life.
Shonzi’s scenes reflect real situations and reveal how he blurs boundaries with people in his life, whether through sex, language, or interpersonal space. The female characters in his movies reflect both his fantasies of and dysfunction towards the opposite sex. Reducing them to objects is the limit of his romantic and sexual experience. In turn, Todd has his own secret fantasy that may sever his relationship with Lindsay, and Shonzi’s knowledge of it has affected both brothers’ lives. When Peter has a heart attack, the brothers are forced into close quarters that not only tests Todd’s patience but also exposes his hangups towards his and Lindsay’s past that, like it or not, have to be dealt with in order for their relationship to progress.
The other women of the film – sister Nina (Lauren Weedman), niece Lilly (Reagan Yates) and neighbor Justine (Artemis Pebdani) – reveal Shonzi’s perception of women in different roles: as a mother figure, “damsel in distress,” and platonic friend. Lindsay gives Shonzi his most direct interaction with a woman in years, and the boundaries she sets with both brothers forces each to grow up and look beyond his own gratification.
As we watch the short films unfold, we are witnessing Todd’s guilt and atonement towards his brother, and Shonzi’s desire to be a part of an adult relationship – one like he has observed his brother having with different women – rather than being the spectator. By the last Rainbow time film, which features a crazy scene featuring a fake penis, the audience has assumed the role of the peeping Tom and Shonzi is sticking it to us.