Saturday, September 17, 2005

Picture Claire (2001)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

The author of this review has often encountered films in which good ideas were wasted due to poor execution. One of such examples is PICTURE CLAIRE, 2001 Canadian thriller directed by Bruce McDonald.

The protagonist of the film is Claire Beaucage (played by Juliette Lewis), French Canadian woman whose apartment in Montreal is torched. She immediately decides to start new life in Toronto and meet Billy Stuart (played by Kelly Harms), photographer with whom she had a brief romance. All she encounters in new, foreign city are series of unpleasant surprises - Billy not only has a snotty English girlfriend Cynthia Lacey (played by Camilla Rutherford), but he had secretly made photographs of her and made her the star of his exhibition. Even bigger problem for Claire is her poor English, which created all sorts of misunderstandings, ultimately resulting in her being mistaken for Lily Warden (played by Gina Gershon), professional criminal involved in a smuggling operation that went horribly wrong. Claire is now pursued both by police and psychopathic hitman Laramie (played by Callum Keith Rennie).

McDonald and screenwriter Semi Chellas had some good ideas for this film. The standard thriller plot about mistaken identity was injected with the protagonist unable to properly communicate with her surrounding, making all kinds of standard thriller situations look refreshing. McDonald also made film look unusual with all kinds of flashbacks and surreal scenes illustrating the mental state of protagonist.

However, not all decisions were good. Casting Juliette Lewis as French Canadian was somewhat unusual, but, on the other hand, it was very close to typecasting because some of the best remembered roles of her career had been those of retarded and other socially dysfunctional women. Even bigger mistake is in the plot that solves some of its problems with the series of convenient coincidences. When it happens, the audience is confused, because such plot mechanisms are more suitable for screwball comedies than gritty urban thrillers with graphic violence. The discrepancy between the near-comedic plot and its bloody, naturalistic resolution dooms PICTURE CLAIRE to the fate of many films that didn't live to its true potential.

RATING: 4/10 (+)


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