by Isobel Sharp
This is one of those indie films that's long on message and quirk, and short on picky things like plot and logic. Luckily, it doesn't take itself terribly seriously, which partially makes up for some wooden performances and lapses in reason.The Children of Paradise, a rock band on the road, has gone astray, missing gigs and generally being, well, a rock band on the road. Their promoter sends Ramona (Valerie Buhagiar), his mild-mannered employee, off to corral the band and bring them back to Toronto. Ramona doesn't know how to drive, but she's determined not to let that stop her; an overenthusiastic cabbie, who seems to have chauffeured every rock star in existence at one point or another, is more than happy to drive her to Sudbury, and then absconds absent-mindedly with her bags upon arrival. Ramona does find the band, or most of it, but they also disappear immediately, leaving Ramona lost, alone, and with about enough money to buy a sandwich.
"Rock, resurrection, and crow cooked on a hot engine."
Fortunately for Ramona, she is stumbled upon by a film crew sent up to shoot the Children's first video. The director, Bruce, (Bruce McDonald, the director of Roadkill) agrees to help her find the band, though he seems far more set on making a documentary, with Ramona as the star, than helping her out. She ends up wandering the Canadian countryside, finding help along the way in the form of the Children's lead singer (on his own spiritual quest), an up-and-coming serial killer (who assures her she's perfectly safe, as he only plans on killing people he doesn't know), and a high-school boy looking to grow up by way of an older woman. Eventually, Ramona gets it together enough to draw all these searchers together in a way that she thinks will fulfill all their needs, as well as her own.
This movie is the first in Bruce McDonald's rock and roll road movie trilogy, and it makes the most of its music, as well as of the Canadian countryside it takes place in. Shot in black and white, the film makes northern Ontario look both bleak and mysterious, a good setting for the variety of quests that go on throughout the film. The center search is Ramona's, who is looking not only to do her job, but to become more than just a fancy Girl Friday - she learns to drive along the way as well, always a handy metaphor. Russell (Don McKellar), the proto-serial killer, is looking for a way out of a Canada which offers little to men who can't play hockey - he's both creepy and charming in his efforts to promote himself via Ramona, yet behave as a fundamentally decent guy trying to make something out of his dismal life. The most interesting and self-reflexive of the searchers is Bruce, the director of the film crew, played by the director of the movie. Bruce is looking to capture on film something, anything, that will make a statement. His introduction to Ramona consists of his filming her, having taken her for a woman despondent in poverty. Once he finds out who she is, he immediately recasts her as the heroine of his documentary, and pretty much ignores the fact she's an independent human being with her own goals. When Ramona runs down a muskrat in the road (the first of a few casualties of her driving lessons), Bruce and the crew hop out to film the corpse, as Bruce figures he can use it as a "symbol of something." "Capitalism?" a member of the crew suggests. But it matters less that Bruce have a plan laid out than that he capture the moment in all it's gory glory.
For better or for worse, Bruce-in-the-movie's attitude about moviemaking parallels, to some degree, real-director-Bruce's view. Roadkill is a spotty film - some actors (Buhagiar, McKellar, and McDonald himself) stand out, giving interesting portrayals of quirky yet almost unpleasantly attractive characters. Others are wooden, clichéd, or incomprehensible, and the plot serves only as a suggestion rather than a story. The ending, while satisfying on one level, is madly unrealistic, and undercuts the humanity of those characters that seemed to have any. And, unsurprisingly, the trippy, surrealistic rock and roll debauchery-style scene is more silly than compelling.Despite the flaws, Roadkill has its fun bits, as well as meaningful ones, plus a good soundtrack and some lovely cinematography. It's worth a watch for those into Canadian film, or road movies, or general quirkiness - but the whole package is not as good as some of its parts. Total cost of leaving a cab parked in Sudbury over the weekend, meter running: $1,002.50, Canadian.
link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5782&reviewer=291
originally posted: 03/05/02 01:39:21