Rainbow Time (2016) Review

Curious comedy is a push and pull experience.

Rainbow Time is a 2016 romantic-drama about a developmentally delayed adult man who moves in with his brother, only to grow enamored with his girlfriend.

Todd (Timm Sharp) has been dating Lindsay (Melanie Lynskey) for six months and is genuinely happy for the first time in a long time, expressing honest and strong feelings for her. That said, he thinks it’s time to introduce her to the family, and she is excited, but there is a wrinkle. Todd has a brother named Shawn (Linas Phillips). He’s an aspiring amateur filmmaker who is somewhat obsessed with Fonzi from the television series Happy Days, even calling himself Shonzi. He is also developmentally challenged with zero social filters, speaking nearly anything on his mind, of which much is sexually targeted. And of course, he knows secrets about his brother.

When Shonzi meets Lindsay, like with most women, he sees her in very specific ways that fit mostly into his often very open fantasies. When he secretly spots Todd and Lindsay in a private sexual moment, he records them on his phone, yet is spotted by Todd, who has his own temper issues. But what we learn after is that this aspect of Shonzi’s behavior actually supports Todd’s own secret fetish, that of watching himself have sex with his girlfriends. This of course becomes its own problem when Lindsay finds out.

Written and directed by Linas Phillips, he also stars as Shawn, careful to make the portrayal of the brother’s relationship one of opposition and familiarity but also a certain kind of bond that is decidedly imbalanced yet structurally sound. It’s a paradox that drives the two constantly forward on a criss-crossing path of closeness and separation. Phillips is very convincing and never overplays the condition, early on seemingly even trying to repel the audience with his behavior, but making strides to try and earn our sympathies as the story unfolds. 

Rainbow Time
Rainbow Time, 2016 ©Duplass Brothers Productions

This is where the film both hits and misses the mark, much like Todd and Shawn themselves. There are a number of authentic situations that ring true and collectively make for some strong emotional moments, and yet, there are times it feels a little forced and too obvious, where some conflicts are settled more out of convenience than a sense of weight.

The most glaring is how Lindsay herself is also a filmmaker of sorts, a modern feminist pushing for more action against the overt sexualization of women. Combining her and Shonzi’s desire to make a movie, she opens his eyes about his own behavior, which feels like an easy way to teach him when in practice. That’s not to say Lindsay isn’t right (and honestly, Lynskey is close to perfection), even though the film takes great pains to put her clearly on one end of the spectrum with many of the other male characters on the opposite, including her ex-husband (Jay Duplass), who is painted in very broad strokes.

Rainbow Time is an interesting film that I won’t lie, is a little uncomfortable to watch at times, mostly due to its commitment to Shonzi’s sexual curiosity, a matter that is addressed throughout, be it his voyeurism or oddly guilt-ridden masturbation. And while he is fully aware of what and who is he, sometimes emotionally coming to grips with it, the ever-present weight of it gets heavy, especially in a squirm-inducing finale that pushes the viewer’s investment in both brothers and questions the limits to what or how all of it should be handled. Somehow, a leather-jacketed man walking the streets by himself with a ten-inch plush penis in his hands seems like something no one would feel right about, let alone one with Shnozi’s condition. But that’s the thing about both the characters in the film and one’s reaction to it, it’s a push/pull experience that leaves you a little off center, for better or worse. You’ll be thinking about it for a while after it’s over.

Rainbow Time (2016)

Movie description: Rainbow Time is a 2016 romantic-drama about a developmentally delayed adult man who moves in with his brother, only to grow enamored with his girlfriend.

Director(s): Linas Phillips

Actor(s): Linas Phillips, Melanie Lynskey, Timm Sharp

Genre: Comedy, Drama

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