by Kim Linekin, published on October 07, 2004 14:10|
What made Past Perfect, playwright Daniel MacIvor's filmmaking debut, so intriguing and effective was his focus on just two characters we haven't seen onscreen much before -- a couple (played by MacIvor and Rebecca Jenkins) who fall in love in their late thirties, with all the emotional baggage that age can carry.
For his second film, MacIvor got a bigger cast and wrote a bigger story, but with diminishing returns. Wilby Wonderful boasts a who's who of Canadian talent, plugged into instantly recognizable character types. Though MacIvor works hard to humanize them, the end result is barely above the level of a sitcom -- and a wonky, treacly one at that.
The residents of Wilby, Nova Scotia -- a would-be suicide (James Allodi), an unhappily married couple (Paul Gross and Sandra Oh), a slutty single mom (Rebecca Jenkins) and an earthy painter (Callum Keith Rennie) -- solve all of their personal problems in one day as a scandal looms over the small town. MacIvor introduces each character and outlines their problems quickly, but takes far too long to connect the dots between them. He also withholds details about the scandal until it's too late to care. Instead of creating mystery and suspense, all this narrative secrecy does is leave you feeling confused and annoyed.
The actors also have a tendency to project their emotions to the camera but not to each other. Since they don't react to anything going on around them, they kind of look like dolts.
As always, MacIvor's gift of the gab is his saving grace. There are several trenchant exchanges here, the meatiest of which involve Rebecca Jenkins as she and MacIvor work to find the truth beneath her character's clichés. Here's hoping their next collaboration cuts out some of the middle men.