Cultural lessons in three movies… (Links are to YouTube trailers of same)
Last Saturday we wanted to go see The Stone Angel, but it was on at 7:00, and we just couldn’t get ourselves organized to get there on time. So as a kind of boobie prize, we thought, we decided to go see the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now, admittedly, that film had received pretty decent critical notices, which is why we considered it at all… But so did Knocked Up, and I was pretty underwhelmed by that one, with its many “man-boy” characters.
But Forgetting Sarah Marshall was different. It is what it is, which is unabashedly a sex comedy, but it rises above what I was expecting in that none of the characters were mere caricatures. Sarah wasn’t just a bitch. Her new boyfriend wasn’t just a stupid himbo. The main character wasn’t entirely blameless for the break-up. You kind of cared about these people. You kind of liked them.
We left the movie in a really good mood.
The next night we managed to get ourselves to The Stone Angel. It featured good performances (from the likes of Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Page*, and the yummy Kevin Zegers), moments of humour, and strong characters. But it is what it is, and that is a drama about a 90-year-old woman looking back at the tragedies of her life, and the decisions that led to them.
We didn’t dislike the film, but we weren’t in as good a mood afterwards.
By Thursday DH was a little movied-out, but I went to see Maple Flavour Films, a documentary about English-language Canadian movies, and why Canadians don’t go see them. (Ironically, very few people were there!) Various theories are put forward as to why that is—screens dominated by Hollywood movies; lack of star system; lack of promotion. But the director’s own view (he was there for the screening) was that Canadians make too many dramas, which never do as well as other genres. Why not make more of the types of movies people want to see—why not more comedies? Why wasn’t the low-budget, Scarborough-inspired Wayne’s World not made in Canada? “We need our Full Montey“!
And he may have a point. But I’m also thinking, even if The Stone Angel wasn’t a barrel of laughs, there are a number of Canadian movies that have a put big smile on my face. La Grande Séduction—OK, that’s a French-language film—but it’s still one of the damn funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Bon Cop, Bad Cop—bilingual—was rather a lot of fun as well. And Touch of Pink—all in English—was rather fun as well.
And—this sounds like damning with faint praise, but it’s not—some movies are lot more fun than their premise would make you think. Yes, in Saint Ralph, the boy is inspired to run because his mother’s in a coma… But the focus is on him, not her, and the journey is fun, funny, inspiring. Last Night is about the end of the world, but it’s Don McKellar, and to some extent, it restores your faith in humanity as you marvel at some of the absurd responses to this fact. Snow Cake begins with a terrible car crash (I’m maybe not helping the cause here), but gains considerable humour as the British driver involved (the lovely Alan Rickman) is thrust amongst Canadians in Wawa, of all places—including an autistic woman played Sigourney Weaver. And New Waterford Girl has overtones of Juno—a preternaturally smart and witty teenager finds pregnancy the only possible escape from her tiny home town, though in this case it’s a fake one (the pregnancy is, not the town).
And I’m not going to pretend that Les Invasions Barbares or Away from Her are anything but primarily dramatic, but they really do have a lot of humour, and they’re both just so good, everyone should see them.
Or maybe my tastes are weird. Certainly I see way, way more Canadian movies than other people do…
* In 2008, when this was written, this was the name of this actor.