Starring Kirk Caouette and Michelle Harrison. Rating unavailable. Opens Friday, March 8, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
The title of this goodhearted, beautifully shot local feature, Hit ’n Strum, is a play on the hit-and-run incident with which it begins. And there’s some attempt to tie it to the main characters, a rigid financial type and a homeless musician who meets the business end of her Beemer.
That percussive intro is the biggest hint that first-time writer, director, and star Kirk Caouette spent many years as a stuntman in action movies. The only chase scenes here, though, involve the harried quest of our hitter, a striver named Stephanie (Michelle Harrison), to improve the hittee (an extra-gaunt Caouette), a bearded busker called Mike.
If you’re thinking Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in Once, you’re not far off—minus the chemistry and quirky insights. Performing his own tunes, the shaggy-haired filmmaker more strongly resembles Keith Carradine singing “I’m Easy” in Nashville, except the town is very much Vancouver and these songs could all be called “Difficult Me”. They’re melodious enough but sound less like crafted compositions than angry, two-chord philosophy lessons.
Mike has abandonment issues, explaining his initial refusal to let Stephanie lure him away from his mattress under the Georgia Viaduct. Sadly, her idea of mentorship consists only of dumb moves. In a funny scene with John Mann as an eager music-shop salesman, she blows almost four grand on a guitar similar to the one he already plays. (Nice product placement, Larrivée!)
She then lays out more time and money trying to get him into a recording industry that, frankly, doesn’t exist anymore.
Okay, maybe Ms. Big Shot doesn’t know that. But what does she know? In a tale ostensibly about the across-the-tracks transformation of two unlikely characters, Caouette forgot to give one of them a personality. Mike does hand Stephanie a drum, but he beats it in the end.