Jul 12, 2000 at 12:00 am

One thing writer-director Greg Harrison does exceedingly well in Groove is thrusting the audience into the mind-set of a San Francisco rave. From scouting out a warehouse and transforming it into a party space to e-mailing invites to the rave cognoscenti, there’s a palpable feeling of anticipation. Something is going to happen tonight – quite a few things do happen – but 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 chronicle, and have 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 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. The self-conscious newbie, David, and the veteran party girl, Leyla, clash, then bond. 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 clashes with their conventional expectations of being a couple.

In Greg 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.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].