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Foreign Film - Canada - Wilby Wonderful


Wilby Wonderful
Paul Gross, Sandra Oh, Maury Chaykin
Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor
Canada 2004
Film Movement
99 minutes

Paul Gross and Rebecca Jenkins lead an ensemble cast that reads like a who's who of Canadian talent in a quirky black comedy by Canadian theatre and film fixture Daniel MacIvor. Wilby Wonderful is two parts boy-meets-girl and one part social commentary, plus a splash of intrigue surrounding an underhanded gambit to lay a golf course over a treasured landmark.

On opening, we see Sandra Oh working her magic as stressed-out career woman Carol French, who pushes her husband, Buddy (Gross) into the arms of one-time town doxy Sandra Anderson (Jenkins). Meanwhile, Dan, the town's outed gay video store owner (Allodi) has just failed completely to throw hisownself to his doom off the nearest bridge. And thus is the tone is set for a Canadian film that is in turns funny, sad and poignant.

MacIvor's able directing and good feel for dialogue makes Wilby Wonderful engaging as hell, and just plain fun. The boyish Buddy is kinda hapless, kinda hilarious and eminently sympathetic, whether he's suffering through his cold, dead marriage, putting up with an overbearing mayor and his shrewish wife, or even when he's capering around behind the café with Sandra. Buddy's infidelity opens up the field for a little soul searching, in spite of the fact that it never quite gets past kissing and groping-though not for lack of trying. In fact, frustration arises again and again, whether it's Buddy and Sandra's attempts to get it on, a budding Lothario's efforts to bed Sandra's daughter, Emily (Page), or Dan's numerous efforts to kill himself.

What makes MacIvor's films so refreshing is the fact that, in an age where Hollywood makes its living off of pacifying people one audience at a time, MacIvor will meet you halfway and let you figure it out for yourself.

In one noteworthy scene, a drunk Sandra tries to give Emily a box of condoms so that Emily won't ruin her life like she did. Incensed, Emily storms out, leaving a string of names behind her. What is left hanging unsaid in the air is the fact that Sandra just called Emily the biggest mistake of her life.

You can take what you want from Wilby Wonderful, but a feeling that small-town life is genteel veneer over a minefield of missed opportunities, frustration and official corruption wouldn't be a stretch. And neither would be the feeling that MacIvor is a filmmaker to watch out for.

Jesse Corbeil  is a freelance writer. His website is www.jessecorbeil.ca

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