5 June 1999 | suze-4
A playfully Hitchcockian exercise in Canadiana
I hadn't heard of this movie even though I read all the entertainment news. It's Canadian, but I figured since Atom Egoyan was nominated for The Sweet Hereafter last year, his next movie would be noticed - this apparently wasn't. So when I saw it in the new releases I got it just because I found Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter to be brilliant. I expected a similarly dark and psychological look into perverse human relationships, told with subtle flashbacks, but I didn't expect this very straightforward story. It does, however, have the usual flashbacks to explain why things are as they are now.
Right off the bat Egoyan is referencing his other two most celebrated movies (mentioned above), in the opening scene with the school bus and the schoolgirl in uniform. So he forces us to look beyond the current story and look at him as filmmaker, to realize this is an exercise for him.
As always his dialogue, pacing and settings are realistic and the film has the grainy Canadian movie look of a 16 mm film shot on a low budget. The story unfolds slowly and leisurely, and the characters grab our attention as interesting individuals. Yet despite the purely Canadian feel, he is cramming in familiar bits of American movies right and left. Besides his nod to certain of Hitchcock's devices, he includes the Woody Allenesque use of a handheld camera and abrupt scene cuts. He uses these sparingly as if he is having fun making this movie, but doesn't want to intrude too much in the overall effect.
On the surface we have a poor suburb of Toronto, lower class people living to party in between their grinding jobs, violence as an everyday part of life. The video rental box makes this look like an updated "Lolita" but it's not that at all. Right away one starts to sympathize with certain characters and prejudge others - but then there's a little switch.
This latest movie by Atom Egoyan is just as moving and thought-provoking, but without the labyrinthine subplots and interactions which fill his other movies. It's all laid out simply. There is nothing obscure. It's not a new story at all. But it's done in a very Atom Egoyan way. Light, evanescent, a gossamer look at the evil of the human heart. Definitely worth seeing - I give it 3 1/2 stars out of 4.