' Cinema Romantico: Men With Brooms

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Men With Brooms

So when I said in my curling digression yesterday that "Men With Brooms" was a terribly made movie, well, it felt just a bit unfair. Not because it isn't terribly made but because I had said this without any real hint of explanation or justification. It had been seven years since I'd seen it so I felt I owed it to the film to rewatch it and make certain of my opinions. Well....

It has an inspired opening. Aging Donald Foley (James B. Douglas) is out on some remote Canadian lake with his daughter Amy (Molly Parker) and they are hoisting something from the water and, lo and behold, it's a curling stone! It has just the right amount of amplified ridiculousness. But then, at the instant the stone is retrieved, Donald passes away. The next scene is his funeral. It turns wacky. And things start to go downhill. Fast. His coffin falls open. His body nearly falls out. Ha ha! Then we shift to a scene on the street where our main character, Chris Cutter (Paul Gross who triples as writer and director), formerly a great curler who hasn't touched a stone in years, accidentally walks into a signpost! Ha ha ha ha!!! Soon Cutter's recluse/eccentric father is mentioned and a character remarks, "The last time I saw him he was doing something irregular with a cow." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

I cannot stress enough how many points I give Gross and his co-writer John Krizanc for attempting a curling movie but a critic must be honest and "Men With Brooms" simply does not get the job done. It has a serious identity crisis, Gross and Krizanc desperate to make the film a little bit of something for everyone. It veers both constantly and awkwardly from straight comedy to ludicrous poignancy to real poignancy. Pick a genre and go with it, boys!

The story: Donald's will explains to his family that he wants the old curling team - which has not curled together in ten years after an unspeakable tragedy during a bonspiel (i.e. Curling Match) - to re-unite and go after the most storied curling prize of them all...The Golden Broom.

Quickly we are introduced to our motley crew, all of whom are given a personal predicament. Neil Bucyk (James Allodi) is saddled with a wife and life he does not want. Eddie Strombeck (Jed Rees) and his wife are trying, and failing, to conceive a child. Wacky James Lennox (Peter Outerbridge) has a bookie after him. Cutter, meanwhile, is not merely dealing with the repercussions of his curling past, but also with having left Donald's other daughter, Julie (Michelle Nolden), at the altar. Now Julie is the local hero because she is, you see, an astronaut. Yes. An astronaut. Oh, and Cutter might now actually have feelings for Amy who also happens to be an alcoholic. Not to mention Cutter has never reconciled with that recluse/eccentric father of his (Leslie Nielsen, the "name" in the cast, who doesn't even appear to be phoning it in, more like Pony Express-ing it in, as in it's not really even there yet) and will now have a chance to set things right.

Do you see the problems here? This is a curling movie and I've barely mentioned curling so far! There are so many subplots and sidestories and bad lines ("Where did you graduate from? Saddam Hussein's school of physiotherapy?") and pointless efforts to ground things that you are never quite sure what you are watching. Not to mention it often comes off rather amateurish from a filmmaking standpoint. (And, hey, I've been there. My one attempt at a short film is wretchedly amateurish.) A slow motion shot of the quartet diving into a glacier lake is just atrocious and often the logistics of standard shots simply don't feel right or consider the moment a certain character comes storming through a wall while another character offscreen yells, "He's coming through the wall!" Uh, yeah. We can see that.

Occassionally the movie does do a nice job of making something ludicrous quite "poignant". I liked when one character tries to compare curling to shuffleboard and Lennox dismisses this and then says: "You gotta think more like snooker, poker and free face rock climbing. This is dangerous s---." Also nice is a moment when a curling stone is set on fire for reasons I will not reveal and the final sequence at the Big Game with the obligatory Unbelievable Shot is comedically stirring. But far, far too often "Men With Brooms" chooses the tired path of things like cow dung to try and generate laughs.

Of course, it all comes down to the curling. The match scenes are okay, could have been better, but, again, Gross is the first to ever try and capture bonspiels for the cinema and I am fairly certain he was working on a shoestring budget. The trickiest part is the introduction to the game. For anyone watching who does not understand the particulars you have to explain it so they can follow along. You don't want this to be contrived but that can be nigh impossible, so if it's going to be contrived at least make it creative. "Men With Brooms" fails on both counts. Lennox has a girlfriend who knows nothing about curling and it all gets explained to her via voiceover. Really? Voiceover? That was your best idea? Open up your imagination!!!

And that's where "Men With Brooms" fails....just as it failed seven years ago. In a world where sportsmanship is dying a swift death curling still adheres to it strictly (as "Men With Brooms" teaches us) so embrace the fact that it's unique. Why try to tell a story we've seen so many times before in precisely the same way we always see it? Curling is too magnificent a breath of fresh air to get the stale same-old, same-old.

5 comments:

Castor said...

I love me some Paul Gross (he was hilarious in the TV show Slings and Arrows) but a movie about curling that is not really about curling?? No thanks...

Nicholas Prigge said...

I really need to watch Slings and Arrows. I've heard good things about it. I just need to set aside a whole weekend or something because I know once I start I won't stop.

Castor said...

Oh it's great! Each season has only 6 episodes so you can go season by season without too much strain

Information Review said...

I went to see this movie at the theater because I am a Paul Gross fan. I knew almost nothing about the sport of curling and still I loved this movie.

rtm said...

I got to your blog through Castor's comment. I just discovered someone had made a movie about curling, but from the sound of it, it's probably more fun watching real people play curling :( That's too bad, I like Paul Gross, he's so adorable in Due South. I might watch this flick if it comes on TV, but probably not worth a rental, eh? Yeah, that is lame that they use a VO to explain the rule of the game, like you said, use your imagination!!