The Movie Buffer

Tuesday, February 07, 2006



Mild spoilers present. Also, there wasn't a bigger picture. It's a basball cap facing an army helmet.


When I write a review it’s usually right after a film because I’m excited to write about it. But this one was slightly different. I thought that if I gave this film a bad review a gigantic firestorm would arise because of what the film was about. I got over it because I know that the readers of this site can handle a bad review when I have a point.

The story revolves around a young man named Pip, you know, from Great Expectations – the filmmaker won’t let you forget - and his struggle through life after a car accident claims the life of his brother, who has recently announced that he was gay. While living on the street, Pip meets a future social worker and love interest, Jenny, a best friend/ gay prostitute, Clark/Billy, and an unusual confidant, Father Chris. Upon Pip’s eighteenth birthday, he receives a cassette tape on which his grandfather has recorded a description of the terrible events he witnessed during world war two and several life lessons. Armed with lessons learned and forgiveness given, Pip and his group of friends set about to solve their problems.

This is writer/director, Richard Bell’s, first attempt at a feature length film and this does buy him some slack but the flaws in the film were numerous and flagrant. The direction of the film did not flow because of poorly timed flashbacks and scene changes. The cinematography was apt, most of the scenes take place on the streets of Vancouver. Though Bell feels like he had an air tight script, he didn’t get the right delivery from the actors, as the director he should have challenged the actors to get inside the heads of these characters and breathe life into them. The dialog sounds hollow and played up for the camera. On paper the story seems to have some cinematic chops, a poor traumatized kid works hard to succeed in a world that would have written him off. But the translation onto the screen is weak at best. I guess his editorial staff was a bunch of friends who didn’t want to discourage him when his script was mortally wounded and in need of resuscitation. Another problem I had with the scripting/story, homosexual themes and characters felt tacked on for no reason, as a hook, a cheap trick or as a flag for film festivals to reconsider including this film in their rosters. I’m not against having gay characters in movies or portraying the gay lifestyle but when it is used in this manner, it is offensive, it trivializes the issues and it cheapens the film as a whole.

I can’t say too much about actual film production because my experience with that is key grip and gaffer for my housemate’s student films but I did learn a lot about heavy lifting, dollies and lights. In a real film the stakes are much higher than getting that ‘A’, so the results must be better. The color balance was off, probably because the scenes were filmed out of sequence, and some of the shots were overly grainy for even for artistic reasons.

The actors that were brought into this movie are recognizable from Canadian TV and several of them actually have some big budget movies under their belts. Along side the newer actors, there were some veteran actors such as Alan Cumming and Ian McKellan. Cumming was one of the two bright spots of the film, the rest of the actors do have potential that is never realized. The second bright pot is the introduction of the cassette tape, voiced by McKellan, which leads in to the numerous flashbacks to the war. The war scenes were done pretty well; they were done is a hectic style with some brutal gore. But yet again another character is needlessly homosexual.

In the end, the complex problems that exist in the movie get band-aid solutions and any heart was lost. It was like an episode of Quantum Leap when Sam jumps into some nerd and acts all tough to stand up to the bullies and everything gets made right without the feel good ending or the comedy. The tape, whose influence should have entered the movie earlier to catalyze the story, comes into the movie late and the rapid change in the plot it induces clash with established facts about the characters’ personalities.

I’m giving this film 2/10 stars or no thumbs up because the movie had potential but ended up a skeleton of what it could have been. Cumming does a good job as his bit character but the rest of the cast flops around with dialog that doesn’t stir emotional connection between the crowd and the actors. The directing was unpolished and the writing was ragged. You need big balls to write a compelling story using these characters and Bell ends up with a caricatures.


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