[REPOST: You can soon catch this slacker comedy starting Friday, April 30th, in the following locations: AMC Yonge Dundas, TORONTO, ON; Cinemark Tinseltown, VANCOUVER, BC; AMC Forum, MONTREAL, QC). Also check out the trailer at the end of this post. For regulars, I am convinced Adam Scott is Jay Cheel’s onscreen alter ego, or could at least play him if Film Junk: The Movie ever takes off.]
Sadly, I missed Matt Bissonnette’s independent comedy, Passenger Side, at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival due to scheduling conflicts, but was able to catch it as part of this month’s Top Ten Canadian films of 2009, sponsored by TIFF, playing at the Cinematheque Ontario. Set in the greater Los Angeles area, in style and tone reminiscent of American independent greats like Two Lane Blacktop and Slackers, and with nary a Tragically Hip song to be heard, Passenger Side is a curious ‘Canadian’ film indeed. It is not until the name Theodore is dropped near the end of the movie (context momentarily withheld) that a knowing nod is made as to our heroes’ expatriate status. Though slight, there is something quintessentially Canadian in their absurdly deadpan views of each other and the world around them; as the title would suggest, they coast as passengers, lives and places kept at arms length from them.
THEY are brothers, Tobey and Michael, and this is a road movie, though more accurately, a slacker road movie, the distance travelled more circular than directional, more detours than destinations (a kind of West Coast Waiting For Godot). Their relationship, too, goes in fits and starts, bickering with a level of wit rarely encountered outside of a Tarantino screenplay, Olympic-grade verbal fencing at its finest. At times the clever quotient overburdens the narrative, but mostly its so damn funny that the indulgences are warranted. In between barbs, a crisis of sibling communication brews. You feel the history of the brothers in the very first ‘fuck off’ phone call. Tobey is the black sheep of the family, and yet the least hostile, as Michael, a noted Luddite and wallflower, plays offensive to a prior rift that makes this daytrip all the more awkward. The purpose of the trip is slowly revealed and the payoff at the end is both unexpected and fulfilling. Would you like to know more…?