Let's flash back for a moment, all the way to the gloomy yesteryear of 2004. To the frustrated liberal nervous about a possible four more years of George W. Bush, Canada seemed like a leftist paradise. Chances are you may know someone who swore he or she would pack up and move to the Great White North if Dubya got reelected. Such discussion became so loud that Canadian officials were stuck issuing statements reminding unhappy Americans that it wouldn't be quite that easy.
Flash forward. With just under a year left in Bush's second term, I still don't know anybody that actually stood by the pledge to move. Ah, but what if someone did go through with it?
Such a question is the premise of "Blue State," the feature debut from writer/director Marshall Lewy. Lewy, who campaigned for John Kerry and even traveled to Ohio to stump for the candidate, pumps a giant heap of autobiography into the character of John Logue (Breckin Meyer), a lefty blogger consumed by a hatred for the Bush White House. After the election, his friends start asking him when he's moving; he laughs it off as a silly plan whipped up in the heat of the moment, but then he stumbles upon "Marry a Canadian," a website offering shortcut citizenship. Soon after, John decides that yeah, he will go through with it, you know, to make a statement. Stick it to the man!
He advertises for a car pool partner and finds Chloe (Anna Paquin), a mysterious young lass who seems to be in an awful hurry to leave California. The two set out on an odd couple road trip, and their connection over the next few days becomes the heart of the film. There are debates - tirades, actually, as John rarely lets anyone else get a word in - on Bush's policies, namely the Iraq war. Here, Lewy does some tricky maneuvering, trying to deliver political messages without overwhelming the personal story that's really at the core of the piece. His solution is to make John somewhat of a buffoon, a liberal who takes things too far. With John, liberalism and hating Bush are the only things worth talking about, and his inability to have a normal conversation about anything else makes a fine point about letting politics overwhelm the rest of your life.
The film is not all political tirade. When we meet John's right-wing parents, we get deeper into his character. Is he escaping to a liberal paradise, or is he simply running away from his life? The script goes off the tracks in making John's dad (Richard Blackburn) a human cartoon (he talks like he's hosting a conservative talk show, even demanding that his wife cut John's imaginary microphone, har har), which is supposed to express how some people merely reiterate what they hear on talk radio without actually processing it, but actually just winds up being a silly comedy piece that stalls the picture. More interesting are the revelations that are made about John's family, and later about Chloe, and how they both are unable to face their lives, letting the Canadian promise become an easy out.
When the two arrive in Winnipeg, the movie takes a weird shift in tone, dropping the road trip character study and picking up a grab bag of kooky characters and political satire. "Marry a Canadian" winds up being an outfit run out of an aging hippie's home, and we meet a granola gang that's eventually too harsh on America for John's liking. Which forces John to consider: when it comes to America, can you love it and leave it, or must you choose one?
There are a lot of ham-fisted ideals flying about here, and it's all a bit too crudely processed for the movie's own good. But then Lewy lets the politics step out of the way and the characters to step back in, and we leave smiling.
Video & Audio
MGM, via Fox, has provided us with a watermarked review screener and not final retail product. As such, I'm keeping with DVD Talk policy and refraining from commenting on the video quality. This review will be updated accordingly if final product is ever received. I can inform you that the film will be presented in its original 1.85:1 format, with anamorphic enhancement.
The Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 are both tracks are completely serviceable, effortlessly handling the dialogue- and indie music-heavy soundtrack. Optional English subtitles are included.
The only extra is a commentary track from Lewy, which is chatty and informative.
Also includes are a batch of previews for other MGM titles. Another set of previews plays as the disc loads.
Awkwardly preachy yet charmingly personal, "Blue State" is a fun little road trip dramedy that's worth watching for the rich character work. Rent It.