Camera Shy pulls off some tricky business

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Starring Nicolas Wright, Gerard Plunkett, and Hilary Jardine. Unrated. Opens Friday, January 18, at the Vancity Theatre

Camera Shy has self-referencing fun with the conventions of modern storytelling but forgets to make a story worth telling. The weird thing about Vancouverite Mark Sawers’s second directorial venture is that it pulls off some tricky business with impressive aplomb but gets the easy stuff wrong.

One’s appreciation of the Spockish Nicolas Wright as allegedly rising urban politician Larry Coyle may be a matter of personal taste. But give us some rooting interest in the guy, please, before making an unremitting ass of him for the next hour-and-a-half. In the first—and most poorly staged and lit—scene, he is found lying about the environmental impact of a big casino project pushed by a crooked developer (believable Gerard Plunkett). From that moment, or the next, when he takes an inappropriate meeting with his secretary (Hilary Jardine), he believes he’s being followed by a cameraman determined to expose his duplicities.

The invisible-lens dude follows him to sessions with a therapist (David Nykl) and home, where he continues prevaricating to his whiny wife (Lara Gilchrist) and their adopted Vietnamese children, who don’t speak any English—a device that quickly grows thin, although his continued reference to them as “the orphans” is amusing. The film starts getting meta-laughs when Larry realizes he’s caught in a generic movie, complete with orchestral music (well supplied by Don McDonald) and lighting cues to tell him what might happen next.

A climax of sorts happens when he runs to a video store—itself a kind of anachronistic joke—to get advice on how to handle the narrative changes. This would all be a lot juicier if the characters had their realities established for at least five minutes before the gimmick kicks in.

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