GOOD NEIGHBOURS (2010)
Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire and Scott Speedman
Written and Directed by Jacob Tierney
Released by Alliance Films
I admit I went into Jacob Tierney’s latest Good Neighbours with completely the wrong expectations. Two years ago at The Toronto International Film Festival I saw his last film, The Trotsky, and fell in love with its sweet offbeat style. Besides having many of the same stars though, the two films couldn’t be more different. While I loved every moment of The Trotsky, this film is incredibly uneven and I can’t say I left the theatre completely satisfied.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty about this film to like. Bumbling grade school teacher Victor (Jay Baruchel), waitress Louise (Emily Hampshire) and Spencer (Scott Speedman), bitter after a car accident left him handicapped, are interesting characters that are well performed by the actors. Of the three leads, Speedman shines when as Spencer he nails every sarcastic line. Spencer is a dick, and yet with a face like that how can you not want to be around him?
Set during the 1995 Quebec referendum, the film begins with Victor moving from Ottawa to the building in NDG and forming a strange friendship with Spencer and Louise. The early scenes in the film are filled with nothing but smart, dry wit. I feel if the entire film had been devoted to exploring the great chemistry of this trio amongst the tension of the referendum, Good Neighbours could have been a great film.
But instead of sticking with what he does well; silly, sweet and sarcastic, Tierney introduces a serial killer to the mix. Eventually the comedic moments fade and the thriller aspect takes over the film in some dark and brutally twisted ways. I won’t give away the specifics, but one scene with Hampshire especially made me the most uncomfortable I’ve felt sitting in a theatre since I went to go see Precious by myself.
You’ve got to respect a filmmaker for trying to exploring new things with each project, but I felt like Tierney should have stuck to either a comedy or a thriller. It’s disappointing because like Xavier Dolan (who has a small supporting role in the film) Tierney is a great young Montreal filmmaker with allot of promise. Comedy- Thrillers have the potential to be great; one that springs to mind (that also stars Baruchel) is Just Buried (2007). Good Neighbours though never manages to find the right balance between the comedy and the thriller.