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PERMANENT RECORD. Directed by Marisa Silver; written by Jarre Fees, Alice Liddle and Larry Ketron; produced by Frank Mancuso Jr. for Paramount. Starring Keanu Reeves, Michelle Meyrink, Jennifer Rubin and Alan Royce. Rated PG-13 (some vulgar language).


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Permanent Record may not make a permanent impression on the movie-going public. But in addition to the poignant immediacy of its subject matter, it's got excellent acting and it's stylistically quite interesting. And that's not too bad for a movie today, especially one about teenagers.

The highly topical subject is teenage suicide. And though it's a terribly depressing phenomenon, Permanent Record's perspective is quite positive. It focuses on the surviving friends of the victim, and shows how coping with their friend's death strengthens them. True, the rosiness of everyone's coping well is somewhat at odds with the basically realistic tone of the movie. But the characters are mostly appealing enough that we're just glad they're O.K.

Reeves plays the central character and he must run the gamut of emotions from happy-go-lucky nonchalance to extreme anguish. He handles the part well and I would predict a bright acting future for him on the strength of this performance.

The rest of the cast is good, too. And with faces unfamiliar to most moviegoers they look more like real kids than is usual in teenpix. With the exception of the high school principal (who is played just right by Richard Bradford) the adults in the story, even the victim's parents, have very little to do.

But they are not made scapegoats for the suicide. In fact, a point that is made over and over again in Permanent Record is that none of the survivors was to blame for the tragedy, and that their friend's death can never satisfactorily be explained.

Almost as interesting as the compelling story is the movie's unusual, documentary-like style. The strict realism of the early sequences gradually gives way to a skillful shifting of scenes. Toward the end, there's a juxtaposition of a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore with a rock song about the dead boy. The two musical scenes are compared in a way that brings home the movie's final message with a powerful punch.

May 18, 1988

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