Wilby WonderfulReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 10/05/04 20:13:43
I like to play a drinking game whenever I hear a new Canadian-made movie is coming out. Granted, I used to have to play the game whenever a new Canadian film came out *on video*, since the Canucks never used to actually release their films on the big screen, but the last year has seen that situation change markedly, and so now I can play my Canadian Movie Drinking Game every few weeks or so. Here's the rules...It's pretty simple, really. You have to have a six pack of Granville Island beer with you, and whenever one of the following happens, you take a swig.
* The credits say "Starring Molly Parker"
* The credits say "Starring Sarah Polley"
* The credits say "Starring Callum Keith Rennie"
* The credits say "Starring Maury Chaykin"
* The credits say "Starring Paul Gross"
* The credits say "Starring Sandra Oh"
Now, we're not even out of the opening credits yet and I'm already four swigs to the wrong side of sloshed. Molly Parker and Sarah Polley are nowhere to be seen (obviously there was another two or three Canadian productions that needed them going on at the same time as this), but the other four have me in trouble early on.
Now, with the credits over, you take another swig if any of the following is true:
* The film is set on a quaint island
* The film is set on the prairies
Bang! We're on the quaint island this time around, so there's my fifth swig seen to. Which moves us on to background score - if the film has a non-stop strumming guitar, designed to give the film a downhome country feel, another drink goes down the hatch. Good god, another two hours of this and Wilby Wonderful will have sent me to AA.
* If a woman in her late 30's/early 40's is trying to find her sexual identity, knock back another swig.
* If a couple of characters are trying to deal with homosexual or bisexual thoughts, have another.
* If Sandra Oh looks like someone has rubbed peanut butter on her gums whenever she talks (a la Mr Ed), or if she stamps out her age with her hoofs, drink up.
By this point I'm really gone, but I still have enough of my faculties about me to know that the storyline revolves around the fictional town of Wilby, where everyone is having issues. Video store owner Dan (James Allodi) wants to kill himself because of a scandal about to be uncovered in the local paper, but the local signwriter (Callum Keith Rennie) keeps interrupting. Not helping things is the fact that Dan has decided to sell his house, with a constantly freaking out real estate agent (Sandra Oh) fluttering around the pad as she attempts to interest the town Mayor (Maury Chaykin) in buying it. Of course, her husband (Paul Gross), the local Barney Fife, is not helping her day by schtupping the local housewife-trying-to-find-her-sexuality cliche, Sandra (Rebecca Jenkins. Meanwhile, her daughter is planning a sexual encounter with her new asshole boyfriend, even though she thinks her mom is a ho-bag.
Confused? Then take another drink.
These kinds of small town/everyone has issues/every issue is interlinked ensemble pieces are standard fare in Canada these days, as this is the 'we've got actors and we're going to use them' era. The most recent Canadian film era was the 'give all your money to Atom Egoyan' period, which cranked out The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia's Jorney and Ararat, and before that came the 'prairie-based Maury-Chaykin-vehicle thriller' years, which followed the 'Porky's made a shitload of cash, so let's keep doing that' mid 80's.
What period comes next? Well, if Wilby Wonderful is anything to go by, we can start looking forward to the "let's all give up on art and start making movies of the week" era.
It's not that there isn't anything to like about Wilby Wonderful. I suppose it has its moments, and certainly some of those within the walls of this production do show that they have talent that isn't being tested by the material on offer. Paul Gross sleeps through much of the film, but only because he's not asked to do anything more by writer/director Daniel MacIvor, and Callum Keith Rennie continues to demonstrate, as he has for the last decade, that if he'd stuck it out a little longer in LA he might have ended up as the next 'next big thing'.
But after that it gets really pedestrian.
This film has all the hallmarks of a low budget, government funded movie of the week. It's TV movie styling, TV movie directing, god awful plodding musical score, awful acting mixed in with the good stuff, and... there's no way to dance around it - Sandra Oh.
I keep waiting for Sandra Oh to show me why she appears in every third film I see, but such a revelation doesn't look like it will be coming any time soon. She is one-note in every way, from bland facial expression to laughable emotional breakdown. When she's freaking out, I don't feel her pain, nor do I laugh at her stupidity. I simply blink. I blink the blink of a person who doesn't know what the hell he is supposed to be getting from this experience.
Wilby Wonderful was never presented as the second coming of Shakespeare, but that doesn't let it off the hook for failing to push the envelope in any way. It's simplyt not a great movie, and what's worse it that it never makes even a token effort at trying to be.Oh yeah.. the drinking game. Okay, when the end credits roll, you take one more swig for every single film fund, tax credit scheme, and government funding body that has contributed to the budget of the film. In Wilby Wonderful's case, that should put paid to the rest of your six pack. Now, have fun trying to hail a cab, drunkard!
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