Producer: George LaVoo   Director: Aaron Fisher   Screenplay: Aaron Fisher   Cast: Aaron Fisher, Ellen Toland, Rosie Perez, Catherine Curtin, Paul Schulze, Rita Raider, Katie Claire McGrath and Eric Roberts   Distributor: Act 13

Grade: C 

Yet another movie more notable for its backstory than for what actually appears on the screen, Aaron Fisher’s semi-autobiographical tale of a college student who reacts to a false report that could lead to his expulsion by making a film giving a true account of the situation for an appeals committee is a revealing take on Fisher’s own condition, but as a movie it’s a bit of a mess.

Ben Glass, the protagonist played by Fisher (and named, obviously, as a homage to J.D. Salinger’s fictional family) is bipolar, along with being diagnosed with a variety of other ailments (A.D.H.D., O.C.D., etc.).  So is Fisher, who uses his own experience to flesh out the character.  Ben is under the care of a therapist named Holloway (Rosie Perez), whose freewheeling sessions with him punctuate the action.

Ben’s parents David (Paul Schulze) and Nancy (Catherine Curtin) enroll him in a liberal-arts college (not his first, it seems), where he’s a bit older than the other students, but he tries to fit in.  Unfortunately his first attempt at dating, with pretty Daisy (Katie Claire McGrath) is such a bust that he tries to commit suicide.  He recovers, but when Daisy visits him to see how he’s doing, the array of pills—his regular medication—leads her to believe that he’s attempting to kill himself a second time, and though he protests that she was mistaken, the Dean informs him that under the school’s two-strike policy, he’ll have to leave. 

That’s what is behind his decision to make his movie, intended for the university committee to which he intends to appeal the dean’s decision.  His parents think it’s a silly idea, but he gets some encouragement from a friend of his father’s, a washed-up producer named Monty Pennington (Eric Roberts, in an amusing cameo). 

Of course he’ll need money.  One part of that involves purloining his mother’s collection of change, which she keeps in canning jars.  Another depends on a kick-starting campaign in which he’s helped by Emma (Ellen Toland), a sex worker with the proverbial heart of gold.  (In the press notes, Fisher explains that bipolar people often develop a kinship with those in the trade.)  With her assistance (and her participation as an aspiring actress) he does make his movie, though the committee meeting doesn’t turn out as he’d hoped.     

“Inside the Rain” is clearly a labor of love for Fisher.  But his screenplay is more than a little muddled, the juxtaposition of comedy and drama never fully jelling and some scenes simply falling apart (like one involving Ben, a rideshare car, David, Nancy’s coins, and the cops).  Even the title doesn’t quite work; you have to return to the press notes to find out that it refers to an incident in which Fisher and a friend found themselves curiously comforted by being caught in a sudden shower. 

And as much as one appreciates his efforts as an auteur, Fisher, who looks a bit like Daniel Stern, doesn’t make an especially ingratiating leading man, too often relying on manic delivery to push the plot forward.  Of the rest the best are Roberts and Perez, who wring every laugh out of rather undernourished roles.

“Inside the Rain” is a modestly-budgeted picture, and looks and sounds it.  Sally Levi’s production design is strictly utilitarian, and Josh Fisher’s camerawork pedestrian.  Nor is the editing by Aaron Fisher and Esteban Uribe a model of slickness. So while Fisher’s film is intriguing as a reflection of his self-understanding, its contrivances obscure its value as autobiographical revelation.