Cloudburst plays everything for laughs
Starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. Unrated. Opens Friday, March 15, at the Vancity Theatre
Writer-director Thom Fitzgerald (still best known for The Hanging Garden) mistakenly plays everything for laughs in this wildly uneven road movie. That’s too bad, because once long-time partners hit the highway, some genuinely funny things do happen.
Film and stage veteran Olympia Dukakis gets the flashier role as tough, potty-mouthed Stella, who has already spent three decades in New England—played beautifully by Nova Scotia—coupled with the softer, now-blind Dot (Ireland’s Brenda Fricker, going Maritime with no problem) when both look to be thrown suddenly out of Dot’s lifetime abode. After Dot breaks her arm in a fall, her granddaughter (Kristin Booth, in a truly thankless role) is determined to ship grandma to a nursing home, leaving Dot’s partner precisely nowhere.
Not one to pull her punches, Stella loads Dot in a pickup truck already laden with provisions and kd lang CDs for the drive to Canada, where same-sex marriage is permitted. Ryan Doucette, known in French Canada as a mime and theatre artist, plays a hunky young hitchhiker drawn into their flight. He’s good, in a less showy way, even if his presence leads to perhaps the most outrageously in-your-face use of male nudity ever seen in a movie, comedy or otherwise.
It’s heartening to see aged lovers—let alone gay-and-grey ones—given their due, especially in the open-road format. But Fitzgerald’s sketchy characterizations and dogged determination to alternate between TV-style melodrama and silly, forced humour grows wearying. If Dot and Stella were transformed by their journey and the (too few) people they meet, Cloudburst would weather these flaws. But the generally likable movie is content to celebrate bland cuteness made grown-up, apparently, by salty talk and rusty cars.