Grown Up Movie Star

12 09 2011

One of the films I missed at the Queer Film Festival that I wanted to see.

Synopsis:  after the mother of a family leaves, a closeted ex-NHL player father adapts to life in Newfoundland with his two young daughters, one of whom is exploring her sexuality.

Super awesome things: gotta love Canadiana.  The movie is set and made in Newfoundland, and the overall landscape, music, and tone feels genuinely Canadian.  It’s a good feeling.  There’s a ton of conflict in the film, and that is already an understatement.  Ex-NHL hockey player Ray is in the closet, and his torment is played out fairly well, hiding his love interest (the coach/PE teacher at the local high school) from everyone, and even going as far as to not talk to him on the phone.  Tatiana Maslany, who plays Ruby, Ray’s older daughter, and her journey through sexual awakening is also similarly heartfelt and interesting to see where things went.  She embodies teenage angst (perhaps a bit too much?) and Maslany does a great job at portraying a callous and rebellious yet sympathetic character well.

Not so super awesome things: I think most people would agree that Grown Up Movie Star is depressing.  It’s not necessarily the subject matter that is depressing, but that most if not all the characters in the film are angry or miserable most of the time to the point where Newfoundland itself seems bleak and dreary.  Ray is angry at his wife, his children, and his own inability to communicate and relate to them (actor Shawn Doyle shows so much awkwardness when it comes to handling the kids that it works very well); Ruby, is angry at her father for being a hypocrite and the fact that he just doesn’t “get” her.  These two take the dysfunctional family to a whole other level.

As well, the pacing really is a rollercoaster ride; one minute everyone’s yelling and the next, the family is driving along happily on the road.  But these happy moments are quick and fleeting, and when they do happen, it feels odd, as though there must be some sort of sparring match coming because this family shouldn’t be happy.

Lastly, and there will be some spoilers for this, when Ruby begins heading over to her dad’s friend Stuart’s place where he takes pictures of Ruby posing– with clothes on, but still suggestive– you know it’s going to end badly.  And yet, when Stuart finally does take advantage of the teenage Ruby, one can’t help but feel it’s partly her fault as well.  Perhaps it was this past English class and Angela Carter’s view that some women ask for bad things to happen to them, that they are only victims when they choose to victimize themselves.  Ruby probably doesn’t want things to go the way they do with her ‘fake Uncle Stu” but at the same time, she was the one who kept coming over to his place, who wore the sexy clothing he kept for his models, and who kept flirting with him for such a long time that it really wasn’t a big shock when he put finally put the moves on her and she was uncomfortable.  Sure, she’s only a teenager and might not know any better, but that’s not a good enough excuse for me, and in some ways, she was asking for it and I found myself with a lack of sympathy for her.

This is unrelated to the paragraph above, but foreskin tearing?  How do you not feel that?!

Good for watching: when you think you’ve got a f-ed up life and want to know/see that it could be worse.

Overall: despite the bleakness of the film, Grown Up Movie Star presents the overdone subject of family in a different way– albeit with mixed results.

Grade: B-