(Allan King, 1989)
This attempt at Tennessee Williams North flunks hard first of all because after a decade of dramatic filmmaking King still can't direct comedy to save his life. Sour and bellicose, his actors trample all over a significance-sodden script that begs for salvation by finesse, and when they do attempt a lighter touch, the moody vagueness of the cinematography renders their efforts near-invisible. This tale of everyday cruelty and shades of failure in semi-urban northern Ontario aims to render daily life poetically, marrying social satire and psychological melodrama while pulling the curtain back on an array of big issues - repression, sexism, racism, suicide, psychological abuse, elder neglect. But King has no feel for this milieu, and the dirty words and unenlightened banter sound like they're being recited out of a textbook. Play-acting the angry young woman archetype, Megan Follows does well on the occasions when she's not instructed to bellow, and Colleen Dewhurst's 'symbolic' grandma is mainly an occasion for frustrated pity. But the key to the movie's failure is Hanna Lee's sad, stupid sex worker - all her info is nonverbal, and King can't get anywhere near her to let us in on her truths. Because of this nagging lack of intimacy, the critiques of rednecks and airheads feel like alienated cheap shots. Overwhelmingly banal themes shouted with a scowl, decorated by flashback digressions that don't work and yet another atrocious musical score.