Toronto Sun: The Rise of Sundowners [Review]
Totally biased review of a new Canadian movie I can’t help but cheer for
BY LORRIE GOLDSTEIN, TORONTO SUN
The first thing you should know about this review of the new dark comedy Sundowners, is that it’s not a typical one.
That’s because I can’t be objective about it.
Writer/director/editor Pavan Moondi chose my daughter, Leah Fay of July Talk (winner of two Juno Awards for alternative album of the year), as the star of his last movie, the widely-acclaimed, Diamond Tongues.
This after seeing Leah perform with July Talk at the Toronto International Film Festival a few years ago.
As a result, Leah was nominated for a 2016 Canadian Screen Award, for best actress, for her role as “Edith” in Diamond Tongues, her first professional acting job. Pretty cool.
I also know one of the producers of Sundowners, Brian Robertson, who co-directed Diamond Tongues, and his mom.
Ditto Peter Dreimanis, of July Talk, one of the film’s cinematographers.
Parts of Sundowners (those not shot in Columbia, which substitutes for Mexico) were filmed at our house, and at the home of Leah’s grandparents.
For which, before you ask, we were not paid, although we did receive some movie passes and were invited to eat catered meals with the cast and crew, which was sweet.
(Served at our dining room table. In Canadian film-making, everyone knows how to stretch a dollar).
Finally, Leah has a small but unforgettable part (okay, my opinion) in Sundowners.
Having satisfied the journalistic principle that prior disclosure of a conflict of interest removes the conflict, I can now, in good conscience, give you my opinion of Sundowners.
I thought it was hilarious, with an edge.
I laughed out loud half a dozen times while watching it on my computer, by myself, sitting at my kitchen table, at one in the morning.
It’s the story of hapless wedding videographer, Alex (played by Phil Hanley) and his best friend and photographer (who knows nothing about photography) Justin, played by Luke Lalonde, lead singer of Born Ruffians.
Drawing on his own early experiences filming weddings, Moondi’s script tells the story of Alex and Justin as they are sent off by their maniacal boss, Tom (Tim Heidecker), to “make the best wedding video that’s ever been made” at an all-inclusive Mexican resort, for an utterly dysfunctional family.
The groom, Mike (Nick Flanagan), has just gone bankrupt and is under investigation for tax fraud, which he hasn’t told his fiance, the beautiful and intense Jenny (Cara Gee), whose lecherous father (David John Phillips), hates Alex at first sight, but is sexually attracted to Justin, as is Jenny’s sister, Sarah (Jackie Pirico).
Hilarity ensues, summed up in one scene where Alex, an unsuccessful film maker and Justin, an unhappy telemarketer in their “real” lives, review their harrowing 48 hours in Mexico, after Alex worries he’s having a heart attack and Justin vomits from food poisoning.
Alex: “Wow, we make a great team. In the last 48 hours we’ve spent $200 on a cab fare, we went to the wrong resort, we spent four hours looking for our hotel room, you lost your passport, I ruined my phone, we taped a wedding with no sound, and now, apparently, you have barbecue sauce poisoning.”
To which Justin helpfully replies: “You got your ass kicked, too.”
Two of my favourite scenes occur when Alex’s boss, Tom, musically responds to his request to be paid, and later asks his unseen wife to bring down a bottle of champagne and flutes to his home office, which goes impressively awry.
Sundowners also has a darker side.
Moondi’s special talent is in creating damaged, hard-to-like characters, who we come to care about not in spite of their faults, but because of them, which ultimately reveal their humanity.
He also captures the angst of 30-somethings trying to cobble together a meaningful life in an age of boring, low-paid contract work, with no security.
The musical score by composer Nick Thorburn, who plays the groom’s best friend while hopelessly in love with Jenny — and has one of the funniest lines in the movie as a result — is superb.
Despite its underlying darkness, Sundowners ends, perhaps optimistically, at sunrise, with Alex and Justin up on a roof — where, as the song says, we can see heaven much better — seemingly more at peace with themselves than when their adventure began, and wiser because of it.
Source: Toronto Sun