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New Waterford Girl  

Canadian films seem to get no respect. All the government bureaucrats and starving filmmakers complain that Canadian films can never find an audience, because of indifferent theatre owners and lack of funds, etc, etc. This is true; there are not too many theatres that play Canadian pictures, and the only reason The Sweet Hereafter, from Atom Eygon, got played at all (and actually turned a profit) was because of those two Academy Award nominations.

But then I'm reminded of all the very bigoted opinions of people who say that Canadian films generally rot. My cynical, bitter friend, who suspiciously resembles the lead in MTV's animated series Daria, considers Canadian film to be situated perhaps a bit down the road from Sodom and Gomorrah, what with all those David Cronenburg films, the necrophilia of Kissed, and the infamous Bubbles Galore. I always had to point out that this was a very unfair statement. There's nudity and other strange things in Hollywood films, and she never seems to complain. Remember, this girl watched Showgirls ---- and liked it.

But...... how many Canadian pictures do you know that are any good? Bubbles Galore was one of the worst movies of all time. Better than Chocolate was pretty weak, and one-sided. Actually, I think the only Canadian pictures I really enjoyed were either those Eygon pictures, or a few movies from Quebec, (like Sonatine, or Anna Trister) and even those are really not for the masses. Other than that, Canadian really does mean crap. Or something close to it.

New Waterford Girl is a fairly lame attempt to tell us the story of a non-conformist teenage girl in New Waterford, Cape Breton. It is supposed to be the truthful examination of a girl yearning to break free from the humdrum existence of rural life. In reality, however, it is a ridiculous, if not blatantly patronizing, comedy in which reality, logic and believability are unwelcome guests.

The story is about a girl, nicknamed Moodie, who is clearly the non-conformist in her school, and as with many similar people who live in the middle of nowhere, she wants to get out, fast. Her teacher (Andrew MacCarthy - yes, that Andrew MacCarthy) helps her out by getting her a scholarship to a prestigious arts school in New York. Her parents (Mary Walsh and Nicholas Campbell), however, blindly object and, after witnessing much pouting, even go so far as to take her to the doctor (Kids in the Hall's Mark MacKinney) to see what is the matter in this poor girl's brain. Along the way, Moodie creates a "devious plan"; apparently, pregnant teenage girls are secretly shipped off to Antigonish for a time, and so she decides to create the impression that she, too, is one of those bad girls, and create a charade of pregnancy, which means that her parents will have no choice but to take her out of this godforsaken town.

Along the way, new neighbours arrive from (surprise, surprise!) New York City. A woman (Cathy Moriarty - yes, that Cathy Moriarty) and her daughter decide to move to Cape Breton for a time, apparently because of some trouble involving the woman's boxer husband back home. The daughter becomes friends with Moodie, and embarks on her own mischief: after knocking a guy out at a party, the local girls decide that she will be useful in dealing with the other boyfriend/creeps in the town, and soon, she is punching everybody out. I have to mention the New York teen because the actress who plays her gives the only performance that doesn't feel like an utter waste.

Apparently, this movie takes place in the 1970's. I say apparently because there isn't much to tell us otherwise except perhaps what may be contained in the ad copy (I, myself, was able to affirm the time period upon reading an article about the film's author). Sure, we see kids dancing to April Wine and other Canadian classics, but that felt more like a filling of homegrown music quotas than an accurate representation of the era's music. Surely, the average kid, 70's or otherwise, would be dancing to bands besides the tried-and-true Canadian bands. Another problem is that some of the characters, even the teenagers, behave as if they are trapped in some sort of 1950's limbo, where everybody (yes, even the drunken teenagers) pays lip service to Catholicism while indulging in all sorts of venal and mortal sins, and where the parents act as if it is a mortal sin to even suggest doing extraordinary things. In response to these supposed truths, would it not be more likely that the teenagers would be rather indifferent to religion (how many middle-of-the-road teenagers would really give a damn?), and would it have been really difficult to portray the parents as supportive of the fact that their daughter got a scholarship to an American arts school, instead of sending her off to the doctor to get some anti-stress pills?

Speaking of our new waterford girl, she herself is not exactly a good role model. She is a drama-queen mixed with a pinch of utter crackpot. All she is capable of doing is whine, pout, act out, etc, which could be funny if the movie had a point to make about her. She is completely self-involved and unable to say anything particularly insightful. The screenwriter obviously never attempted to understand what a real non-conformist might be, unless that was to be a twitchy, panicky neurotic with self-destructive tenancies. Who does the screenwriter think she is, Woody Allen? I'm not necessarily saying that Moodie has to be noble or perfect; why not make her into something like the "star" of MTV's animated Daria, or something like that? Hey, I watch Daria a lot, and I don't always think she is noble, either. But at least she's funnier, and could beat our supposedly smart Cape Bretoner in an IQ test any day of the week.

Actually, I think Daria would win hands-down in a scruples contest as well. The script is not even aware of its own implications. The whole premise is situated on the fact this girl is not like the other teenagers in her town. Unlike them, she has a chance at a scholarship, a way out of this dead-end town. So what does she do? She makes a complete ass of herself. Sure, she doesn't really lose her virginity; sure, she doesn't really sleep with all of these guys; but she does go out with her tough-gal/bodyguard and booze it up at parties, and generally makes sure that every single person in this town thinks she is a floozy, a "slut", or any other derogatory term used to describe a fun-loving woman. The movie does not see the irony of this situation; the fact that she is degrading herself (and I do not hesitate to say that) in order to improve her station. But this is not a social commentary; we're actually supposed to believe her actions are actually something a crafty person would do to improve herself. The madness!

And, yes, the movie does get worse. The ending twists itself trying to maintain this stupid charade, when all that would have to be done is for Moodie to tell the goddamned truth. The last shots are an insult; I can hear the screenwriter saying, "My my, what a bunch of ignorant, uneducated drunks these stupid Maritimers are; they'll never understand anything other than fucking and boozing, so why bother playing fair with them? I'm going to Hollywood! Sure, they also fuck and booze, but at least they have all their teeth, and they can enunciate properly!" Obviously, that is why this person wrote the script; there is no other reason other than that she is a shallow narcissist, who cannot see beyond her own prejudges toward the locals. I have the feeling that this movie is autobiographical. Why else does it pass judgement to everybody except the main character?

David Macdonald

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