Saturday, 28 March 2015

BEN’S AT HOME / PRETEND WE’RE KISSING - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - Two Oddball Canuckian Romantic Comedies unspooling at 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto

Two Oddball feature length comedies are on view during the final day of the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto and those so inclined, will be served up a nice buffet of wonky yucks. TWO MOVIE REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE - GOOD DEAL, EH?

Ben's at Home (2014)
Dir. Mars Horodyski
Starring: Dan Abramovici, Jess Embro, Schnitzel, Jim Annan, Inessa Frantowski, Craig Brown, David Reale, Rob Baker, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Emma Fleury, Ruth Goodwin, Sarah Booth

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Call it a generational thing, but I have a hard time believing and/or giving two hoots about Ben (co-writer, co-producer Dan Abramovici), a 30-year-old loser who's so broken up over his girlfriend leaving him that he decides to never leave his apartment again and only communicate with people via social media and/or deigning to interact with them when they choose to come over to his place.

At the risk of sounding like my father, which, to my horror, I seem to be doing more and more with each passing year, my initial response to this sad sack's supposed dilemma would be thus:

"So what, bud? In my day healthy young men didn't mope around. They'd either turn into stalkers and/or grab some pussy in North End Winnipeg's Green Brier Hotel Beverage Room. Plenty of fish in the sea, sonny boy. Go out and get fucked."

I reiterate, though, it's gotta be some kind of a generational thing. After all, one of my keystone pictures as a kid was The Graduate wherein Dustin Hoffman not only got to boff pretty Katherine Ross, but her mother as well (Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson). These days, though, keystone titles for kinder, gentler sissy boys might well be movies like Ben's at Home.

Luckily, the picture is snappily directed by Mars Horodyski who manages to get Abramovici to lay off on the self-pity enough that we occasionally find him engaging. As well, Horodyski and her key creative team more than make up for the picture's potential to slide into a vanity piece for its leading man. Visually, the blocking and compositions always make the most of the primarily interior single set, the cutting expertly keeps the forward movement all fresh and breezy, whilst the gorgeous lighting and camera work at times feels too good to be true, but true enough it is.

Another bonus is that the screenplay populates the film with a variety of rich supporting characters, all of whom are far more engaging and interesting than Ben himself. Given that he's such a loser, one wonders why any of them would bother having anything to do with the guy (after all, he's planning to miss his best friend's wedding - the LOSER!!!), but again, the film is so well directed that the camera eye and perspective allow for the relationships to work as well as they do and soften the reprehensibility factor infusing the title character. As well, the film is superbly cast in these supporting roles and not a single actor is anything less than thoroughly engaging, especially the massively talented David "Someone Give This Guy More Starring Roles" Reale as Ben's brother and the sassy, sexy Jess Embro as the delivery gal who falls for Ben the whiny lug.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the finest performance of all, the multi-talented Schnitzel as Ben's most loyal companion and ultimately, the best bedfellow a single feller could ever want. I mean it - the BEST a fella could ever really want to share his sack with.

It's a generational thing.



Pretend We're Kissing (2014)
Dir. Matt Sadowski
Starring: Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Zoë Kravtiz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Dov Tiefenbach is one of Canada's finest actors. His delightful, clipped, slightly nasal twang coupled with his ability to fit virtually any role like a comfy old hand-knit sweater (the kind with buck n' doe images emblazoned upon it), makes him a clear candidate to entertain by merely reading the nutritional contents of a Captain Crunch box. Luckily, he has more to do than that in Pretend We're Kissing. Writer-director Matt Sadowski provides Tiefenbach with a solid leading role that offers a myriad of opportunities for him to delight us.

Playing a Canuckian Toronto version of a Woody Allen-like schlemiel, Tiefenbach is a surplus-store-attired nutcase who lives with a semi-moronic agoraphobe who offers all manner of ill-conceived advice. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he's decidedly noncommittal due to the fact that he can't get the sound of his voice out of his head. His thoughts rule him with an iron fist and one of the more clever elements in Sadowski's script and Tiefenbach's terrific performance is the interplay between our leading man, his thoughts and everything/everyone around him.

He's kind of like a schlubby James Franciscus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes being mind-dorked by the sound of telepathic mutant voices in his head, only they all sound like his own voice.

Pretend We're Kissing has one major spanner in the works. The picture is fraught with hideous dollops of magic realism and whimsy, to which I personally must draw the line. One's total enjoyment of the picture is partially dependent upon just how much whimsy can be bravely stomached.

Thankfully, the movie has Tiefenbach to rescue us from anything too egregious and as such, offers up one of the best reasons to see it.


Ben's at Home and Pretend We're Kissing play Toronto's 2015 Canadian Film Fest.