Making a living without losing your soul
Loves: Solid independent films, comedy, Canada
Likes: Paolo Costanzo
Dislikes: Navel gazing, meandering films
Hates: Pot humor
Ryan (Paolo Costanzo, Road Trip) is a good-natured artistic soul, and he isn't having a good day, as his personal, professional and family lives come crashing down around him. Things start looking up though as he finds a job with the local lottery, and meets Ming (Steph Song), while checking out a beached whale. These two developments combine to put Ryan on a path that will test his morals and make him question everything he'd come to accept about his life. That's not surprising considering the writer is Douglas Coupland, who makes his feature film debut here after making his name writing novels about people like Ryan and Ming. The story doesn't move at breakneck pace either, as Ryan explores the world of "winners," writing profiles and photographing the recipients of the lotto's large jackpots, experiencing jealousy at their successes, while contrasting their lives with his.
Things get complicated though when he gets involved with Ming's boyfriend Bryce (JR Bourne), a shady character who convinces Ryan to provide him with the names of the winners in order to use them to launder money. It only gets harder for Ryan to walk the straight and narrow when he finds himself in the midst of one of Vancouver's biggest illicit drug operations, and little argument against its reason for being. The themes of responsibility and morality get a proper workout, as Ryan wants to do the right thing, but finds it a lot easier to just give in and go with the (illegal) flow. Ming's influence, as his desirable conscience, is the only thing that stands between him and potential damnation.
While watching the film, I began to wonder just how long it was, as it seemed to just go on and on, which was surprising, considering it lasts just 95 minutes. Now normally, this would be a very bad thing, but I was never bored by the movie, even though it didn't feel like it really went anywhere at most points. Story points that could have been interesting, like an abandoned high-tech apartment building inhabited only by Ryan and the unusual nature of his job, were seemingly abandoned, while side bits about the film industry in Vancouver and an illogical diversion with a hot girl with a very public private life, never added up to much. Despite such seeming impediments, the film kept me interested, mainly due to the likability of the two leads. Costanzo, in his first real chance as a lead, is excellent as a good guy who's up against it, while Song is adorable in a role that probably would have gone to Sandra Oh at one point. It's the kind of girlfriend-you-wish-you-had part that's not easy to pull off right, but Song does it effortlessly.
Assisting the actors in creating this entertaining, thoughtful comedy is director Paul Fox, a veteran of Canadian TV series like "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and "Little Mosque on the Prairie." You'd never know his background was in the small screen, considering how nice the film looks, blending small creative tricks, genuine style, and an eye for beautiful frame construction, while avoiding the temptation to rely on visual gimmicks. A wonderful sense of pacing that really sells the comedy and emotion is just the frosting on this one. Patience for what the filmmakers are trying to achieve and appreciation for the value of the journey will be rewarded here, though not with an ending you'd call satisfying. It's more of an overall good time with a hint of suburban philosophy.
This one-disc release comes packaged in a standard keepcase, and features an animated anamorphic widescreen main menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out special features. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, but there are no subtitles. Close captioning is available.
Oddly, though it works fine in my DVD player, the film won't start from the main menu on neither my Mac or PC. Not exactly sure why.
The audio is surprisingly impressive, as the Dolby Digital 5.1 track utilizes the sides and rear to solid effect, presenting off-screen effects in position and enhances the music nicely. Everything, from the soundtrack to the dialogue, is crystal clear and free of distortion.
5:20 of scenes are presented with video pop-ups, like the "Pop-Up Video" of old. Included here are some facts and info not shared during the commentary, but as it's only covering a few scenes, it's a bit of a tease. A full-length version would have been nice. Two extended scenes, totalling about four minutes, are also included, though neither is all that interesting, or extended for that matter. The disappointment continues with the so-called "poster gallery," which amounts to just three images. Things get better in the Lincoln Clarkes Photo Gallery, which presents the great real-life photos taken by Ryan in the film (Clarkes in real life.) It's followed by a listing of the bands whose music is in the film, and a "special" brownie recipe for the weed fans in the audience. The extras wrap up with the film's trailer.
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