Reviewed by Marc Glassman
This Movie is Broken
Bruce McDonald, director
Don McKellar, script based on an idea by McKellar, Bruce McDonald and Kevin Drew
Starring: Broken Social Scene, Greg Calderone (Bruno), Georgina Reilly (Caroline), Kerr Hewitt (Blake), Stephen McHattie (Bouncer), Tracy Wright (box office woman)
Outlaw director Bruce McDonald has come full circle with his new film, This Movie Is Broken. The bearded good ol’ Ontario boy with a big hat and grin to match has always loved rock’n’roll, cinema verité and funky romantic situations. Now, he’s combined creative forces with his pal, scriptwriter and actor Don McKellar to make a unique blending of rock concert footage and a tale of young love.
The story line has the simplicity and catchy appeal of a bass line in an early rockabilly hit. Burno has loved Caroline since the two met at the age of ten. Last night, as twenty-somethings, she slept with him for the first time. Tomorrow, she’s leaving for Paris. Tonight, he must woo her and make the loving last.
Caroline’s favourite band Broken Social Scene are playing at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre—a free concert for their hot sweaty fans during the middle of the 2009 garbage strike. The atmosphere in the city may be foul but the music is sweet. Will Bruno be able to claim Caroline’s love tonight?
While this tale plays a lovely melody line throughout the film, the wildly loved Toronto band Broken Social Scene provide a solid rhythmic core through their scorching, scintillating live performance.
The movie is charming: it’s an easy to watch rock film. It also brings Bruce McDonald back home to his roots. McDonald gained his notoriety back in 1989 when he declared that the first thing he would spend his prize money for winning the best Canadian feature film at TIFF (then the Festival of Festivals) would be on a “big chunk of hash.”
A statement like that could wreck a director’s career but in this case it only served to enhance McDonald’s reputation. His winning film Roadkill was a funky road movie about a rock’n’roll band in Northern Ontario and McDonald’s off-handed comment was fully in keeping with the tone of the piece.
Roadkill had started off as a documentary on Neon Rome, a Queen Street West band, which was planning a tour of Ontario. When the band broke up, McDonald got a theatre actor and writer named Don McKellar, whom he’d recently met, to write a comedy about a band breaking up on the road. The result, of course, made film history—well, at least in Canada.
Light and frothy, with one strange romantic twist near its end, This Movie is Broken returns McDonald and McKellar to those early days. It also provides a cameo for Tracy Wright, a marvelous actress and McKellar’s wife, who passed away this week.
They say that rock’n’roll would never die. Let’s light a candle—as we used to do in concerts—and repeat that mantra for Ms. Wright. With a lifetime of wonderful performances, some captured on film and many others on stage (but alive in our memory), she, too, will never die.