Try this premise on for size: a scared young man – Eugene – attempts to put an end to his bottoming-out fate by hitting the road and finding theoretical gold at the end of a literal rainbow. Being enrolled in special classes has given the handicapped student a slanted view of reality – a contradiction since he witnesses his chain-smoking mother giving up daily. While on his trip, Eugene quickly finds out that the world can be a cruel place.
A part of me really wants to root for The Rainbow Kid despite my negative feelings towards the film. It’s a modest coming-of-age indie directed with gusto by Kire Paputts. It’s also a rare opportunity where an actor living with a visible disability (in this case: down syndrome) has been cast as the leading role. If The Rainbow Kid does one thing exceptionally, it’s that it shows audiences that disabilities don’t restrain a performance. Dylan Harman (as Eugene) is fantastic and shows plenty of range, while other actors portraying Eugene’s classmates and special acquaintances also steal their scenes.
I also enjoyed the whimsical score. It sounded like unused Mark Mothersbaugh compositions from Pee Wee’s Playhouse being played off of a mouldy vinyl. It added more personality to a film that is already chock-full of it.
What I don’t approve of is how harmfully weird and careless The Rainbow Kid can be. Scenes are slapped together and are nary of authenticity despite solid performances. The meet-ups between Eugene and various strangers are very random, as is life. These scenes, however, aren’t implemented well – introductions are rushed, conclusions are sloppily stitched together, and characterizations of bit players are paper-thin. Overcooked monologues usually tag along as well. For instance, Julian Richings portrays an interesting spin on a pathetic former ladies man who gives Eugene tips for picking up women, but the exchange desperately searches for an appropriate exit mere moments after it begins.
I’m not worried about Kire Paputts’ blossoming career as a filmmaker though. These storytelling flaws can be learned from.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie