One task that writer/director Greg Harrison performs exceedingly well in "Groove" is thrusting his audience into the mind-set of a San Francisco rave. The preparations we witness -- from scouting out a warehouse and transforming it into a party space to e-mailing invites to the raver cognoscenti -- inspire a palpable feeling of anticipation. Something is going to happen tonight, we recognize, and quite a few events do indeed transpire. Yet this is not a film about major revelations.
As a document of a generation, "Groove" doesn't pack the wallop of "American Graffiti" or even "Dazed and Confused." But those films were made a decade after the events they chronicled, and thus had the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Harrison tries to catch lightning in a bottle, which is a tricky gambit.
"Groove" follows a multitude of ravers as the trajectory of their lives is either changed or confirmed by the events of one night. At the epicenter are four characters: the sullen David (Hamish Linklater), a frustrated novelist who makes a living writing tech manuals; his gregarious brother, Colin (Denny Kirkwood), whose optimistic outlook on life is buoyed by the rave scene; Colin's happy-go-lucky girlfriend, Harmony (Mackenzie Firgens), who blissfully lives for the moment; and the enigmatic Leyla (Lola Glaudini), a New York transplant who's looking for a new start but uncertain of how to begin.
There's a generational divide between the two pairs (one established, one newly minted), and it makes for an interesting contrast. At first, the self-conscious newbie, David, clashes with the veteran party girl, Leyla. Their conflict eventually gives way to bonding: Both are old enough to have seen their once-bright hopes wither on the vine. The shiny, happy rave couple, Colin and Harmony, are in for a rougher ride as they see how the anything-goes attitude of the scene interferes with their conventional expectations of couplehood.
In Harrison's hands (he's also the film's editor), seemingly random vignettes are carefully crafted to follow the rhythms of an all-night rave. He may not portray the dynamics of the whole scene (an impossible task), but Harrison effectively captures the particulars of one nation under a groove.