See that picture above? It's a bad representative photo because that is not what this movie is. This was buzz-worded around SXSW as a documentary about the Canadian band Broken Social Scene. The problem is that it's not a documentary at all, but rather a film that uses a concert as a backdrop. You don't get to find out who the band is, you don't explore how they formed, they don't talk about the offshoots and other groups who join in. You might already know that stuff if you're steeped in the current music scene, but I'm so tragically unhip that I didn't even who they were.
However, I am now a convert. The music is terrific, and that makes you ache for an actual documentary about these people. Who are they? How did they get together? Why are there so many band members? How bad is it when they fight? But, as mentioned above, you get none of this. You just hear the music and occasionally the camera will focus on concert footage of the band for a few moments. But that's it. Still, you do see and hear enough of them that you hope a live album from that concert will be released, it's just that wanting about them in this movie is an exercise in frustration.
It's almost forgivable because director Bruce McDonald uses the rich soundtrack and an actual concert as the lynchpin for this movie ... it's just too bad he takes a tremendous liberty with the audience and slaps them in the face at the end of the film.
Bruce McDonald directed the hilarious mockumentary Hard Core Logo about a faux Canadian metal band, proving he definitely knows how to weave story and music together. He also does a great job of if in this movie, right up until the end. He uses real actors at the concert to tell the story of Bruno (Greg Calderone) and Caroline (Georgina Reilly). Bruno has been pining for Caroline ever since he was a young boy, and as the film starts he wakes up next to her in bed one morning. He finally consummated the relationship.
However, this kicks him into awkwardness as she's leaving for Paris the next day. They have breakfast with Bruno's best friend Blake (Kerr Hewitt), and tells them how bummed she is that the evening's Broken Social Scene concert had to be moved. Too bad, Blake says, as he could've gotten tickets and backstage passes for them. Well good news, says Caroline, they just moved the concert to a new venue! Hook it up! Whoops. Miraculously, they actually secure passes (the concert ends up being open to the public) and they hit the show.
However, Bruno is practically a powder keg of emotions, and he knows this is their last night together. Within minutes of getting backstage, he professes his love for her, and she completely panics. She flees into the throngs of concert-goers, where Bruno and Blake try to follow her, but it quickly becomes apparent that they'll never find her. Bruno is on the verge of a meltdown, but Blake encourages him to just accept that whatever happens will happen. Bruno finally relents, and they attend the concert and after-party with glee, while Caroline wanders the streets of Toronto. Throughout all of this, scenes of BSS are weaved in directly from the concert, and there's a nonstop fire hose of their music.
It's all very poignant and beautiful, and there's a sharp pang of empathy for Bruno throughout. He's wanted this for years, and now he feels like he's ruined it. We've all had moments like that. Probably not in Toronto, but we've all chased that moment and then felt it dissolve like cheap tissue paper in the rain. The actors are all commendable for this as well. Calderone's Bruno wears joy on his face throughout his moments with Caroline while keeping his heart on his sleeve, and Reilly's Caroline rides the line between "did I just make a mistake" and "is this what I want?" like she's on a razor, and Hewitt's lovable d-bag Blake earnestly smiles throughout it all.
Bruno and Blake drunkenly stumble home, and this is where things take a 90 degree turn. There's a moment that comes directly out of left field, and it's the director winking at you while simultaneously relieving himself in your popcorn bowl. There is literally nothing to hint at what happens next, and it derails you completely from the story at hand. I won't go into detail here for those of you who plan on seeing this movie (and I'd actually recommend that you do), but there was a collective feeling of "what the hell?" throughout our screening in Austin.
But does that make it bad movie? I'm still struggling with this one, because I was right there with Bruno, having had an eerily similar experience at a Jimmy Buffet concert in Florida. You're torn between the moment of being at the concert, and trying to chase down what you think is the love of your life, and McDonald does a terrific job with this. It's just that "the moment" at the end almost undermines all of this carefully constructed work. I'll have to see this one again to try and look for hints, a la The Sixth Sense, but if a film makes me want to see it a second time, hasn't it already succeeded?