Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trigger [movie review]

Trigger is the latest film from Canadian director Bruce McDonald, no stranger to helming movies set amidst a music-themed backdrop. He directs a screenplay by Daniel MacIvor that explores one night in the life of a relationship between former bandmates and childhood friends Vic (played by Tracy Wright) and Kat (played by Molly Parker). The duo were the frontwomen for a successful Toronto 90's alt-rock band named Trigger, until egos and substance abuse led to the fracture of both the group and their friendship. Vic and Kat are brought together a decade after Trigger's end, meeting for dinner prior to an awards ceremony that includes a tribute to the band's legacy.
McDonald drew inspiration from the movie My Dinner With Andre, most noticeably in the opening restaurant scene, and Trigger's focus (like the 1981 film) rarely strays from its two principals. Early on in the creative process, McDonald had intended for this project to be a sequel to his 1996 film Hard Core Logo, but the busy television careers of that film's lead actors, Hugh Dillon and Callum Keith Rennie, proved to be overly problematic.
Parker and Wright have great chemistry and deliver excellent performances, with sparks occasionally flying as their characters suss each other out, reopen old wounds, pore over their tumultuous relationship and reinvented post-Trigger lives, and reconnect broken ties (a lengthy monologue where the camera stays close-up on Wright's face is a particular highlight). Be forewarned, though: Trigger is extremely talk-heavy and its languid pace makes it feel much longer than its slim 78 minute running time. I was also surprised at occasional lapses in authenticity during the movie's few live music scenes, particularly considering McDonald's pedigree in this genre. Kat plays bass, which, in conjunction with Parker's physical similarities to her, brings to mind Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins and now a solo artist). Parker's bass mimicking isn't terribly convincing, unfortunately, which detracts somewhat from the legitimacy of the proceedings.
Trigger garnered strong notices from festival-goers and critics alike, also being deemed worthy enough to be the film that was picked for the premiere screening at the fancy new TIFF Bell Lightbox facility. The most focused-on aspect of it centres around a sad storyline, however: Wright passed away in June from pancreatic cancer shortly after filming was completed. The Toronto theatre and indie film veteran knew she had terminal cancer when she took on the project, which had its production schedule significantly pushed up to accommodate Wright's illness and was shot on four consecutive weekends in the spring. There are several instances in the film where her character refers to death and mortality, which makes for some uncomfortable viewing. Wright's strong performance, especially considering her grave health issues, manage to elevate Trigger from "skip it" to "worth a watch" level.
Rating: ★★★★★

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