It's typical that the Canadian press (including 'The Toronto Star' and 'The Globe and Mail') would overhype a docudrama like this one. For one thing, it's about the beloved Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who, despite his flaws, seemed to capture the hearts of many a Canadian in a manner usually reserved for members of the Royal family, and maybe the Kennedys.
The more disturbing trend illustrated by the press of late is the tendency to write blindly self-congratulatory articles on Canadian content. As if the CRTC didn't limit our content choices enough as it is. Just look at all the glowing press that the Simpsons' "Toronto episode" unfairly garnered.
But back to the matter at hand. "Trudeau": the much hyped, much touted biopic miniseries starring a bevy of Canadian regulars, such as Colm Feore, R.H. Thompson, Patrick McKenna and, surprise, surprise, Don McKellar. Oh, and it stars Polly Walker as Margaret. Now, who is Polly Walker, and what's the big deal here?
Jerry Ciccoretti's direction is admirable at times, working with what must have been a limited budget. Instant giveaway: excess of stock footage from the CBC archives. At other times, however, Ciccoretti gives into cheap mimicry of better filmmakers (yes, Jerry, we get the Richard Lester references). This also involves a mind-boggling over-use of cheap video effects, including split screen, freeze frame, and "wacky font library" titling. All this >reminds me of that video project I got an A on in High School (I think it was about the school's lacrosse team).
Back to the acting. Colm (pronounced "Caw-lum," as Cynthia Dale so eloquently introduced him at the end of the first episode) Feore is passable in the title role. I've never been a huge fan of his overly affected Stratford festival style of acting. But he generally pulls it off. Still, it raises the debate of acting vs. mimicry. Where's the passion, Colm?
Polly Walker is gawdawful as Margaret, although one wonders as to how much she was given to work with, considering the muddled direction and the real-life woman she's modelled after.
The supporting actors generally do better, culminating tour-de-force performances by Eric Peterson as Tommy Douglas and Luc Proulx as Rene Levesque.
In the end, I'm sure that "Trudeau" will pull in record ratings for the ailing CBC. But it's still sub-standard entertainment. We need new directors, and new fresh talent to grace our TV screens if we want TV to survive in this country. Otherwise, we can tune in to better fare from the UK or, dare I say it, the US.
And the press better learn how to criticize, because this is imperative if our country wants to grow in the arts.