Michael P. Noens’ directorial début (he also co-wrote the smart screenplay with David B. Grelck) is an inventive, amusing affair built upon the near-universal foundation of relationships going south. The story’s over abundance of coincidence is easily forgiven thanks to some fine acting and an original score (Geoff Shell) and songs (Josh Rosen) that keep the ear engaged and reinforce the tale that brings extra meaning to “you can’t choose your relatives.” The only questionable track is a sadly affected rendition of a Brahms Intermezzo (Op. 118, No. 2).
At the centre of it all is Wes Murray (Jonathan C. Legat), an employment consultant who would really rather be writing film scripts. On the home front, he struggles to keep up with Morgan (Emily Skyle) both in the sack and in the job-satisfaction category. Legat gives a marvellously nuanced performance as he gradually morphs from hapless coaster (the look on his sorry face when confronted with his fondest wish crashing onto the rocks of societal shame is nothing short of brilliant) to confident risk taker. Once beyond the initial scenes in a small-town bar where the pair meet by chance after the wake for a 30-year-old woman who fixed her own problems with irreversible certainty, Stephanie Wyatt provides many memorable moments as Lauren Brunner. Particularly fun is her reaction to lover Dan (Adam Rosowicz delights in his couch potato send-up) as he penetrates her end zone shouting out the yardage along the way to a very one-sided score.
The supporting roles are largely the respective family members of the “same time next death” soulmates who are thwarted by geography (he, Cincinnati; she, Chicago) and apparent engagements to their present-day partners. Christopher Weise plays Wes’ older brother with the greatest of sleaze; Madeline Franklin’s wine-guzzling, love-to-hold-a-grudge mom is convincing; the silent hotel custodian, Brendan Foley, more than holds his own as he vacuums up the remains of his guests’ deceits and broken promises.
Attention to detail allows a “Make cocktails not war” poster to grace the barroom location—advice that is copiously followed by many of the characters when the somewhat estranged family is brought under one roof to mourn the passing of their patriarch. Anyone who has ever “endured” the joy of family reunions will instantly identify with the need for courage-in-a-bottle to wash away all of the shallow love.
“I suppose you find another hill to climb” is just a tad on the cliché side of dialogue, but by journey’s end, the familiar advice proves its worth to the protagonists as a new route is chosen and jointly navigated with courageous self-determination instead of continuing to be pushed along to Inertiaville by the crowd. JWR