American Venus

Directed by Bruce Sweeney. Starring Rebecca De Mornay and Jane McGregor. Opens Friday, October 12, at the Cinemark Tinseltown

Everyone knows they're crazy about guns south of the border, but Vancouver director Bruce Sweeney gets highly specific in American Venus, a satirical character study that hits some targets well but ends up a little too quirky for its own good.

Rebecca De Mornay is outstanding, in a monstrous sort of way, as Celia Lane, a Seattle skate mom whose world crumbles when daughter Jenna (Robson Arms veteran Jane McGregor) spins out at a major figure-skating competition and suddenly leaves her mother without a coaching job. Worse, Jenna is bolting to the other side of the border to stay with friends in Vancouver.

The distracted patriarch of the Lane family (Matt Craven) and Jenna's two jock brothers are busy with their own lives, leaving Celia pretty much free to be her daughter's own personal nightmare. In fact, she follows Jenna to B.C., to this land where carrying a concealed weapon is not viewed favourably. The confiscation of her handgun at the border is a serious problem for the leather-booted trophy wife, who can't go for long without shooting a pistol of some sort, or at least cradling one in her hot little hands.

As long as Celia's search for a gun is coupled with her attempt to worm back into Jenna's life Mom doesn't even have the girl's address when she hits town the movie has a darkly absurd edge that helps clear away a multitude of character questions. But when the obsession with Glocks, Berettas, et cetera, begins to obscure all other story lines to the point where she's purring around a local cop (Nicholas Lea, in a wild-card performance) to get one it's easy to forget what the movie is about.

Aside from familiar locations, well-used and playing themselves for a change, there's not much pleasure to be had from American Venus. This isn't helped by a sudden switch to sincerity at the end; the lady might be a gun nut, but most viewers will see her as just plain crazy. You wouldn't want to meet her when she was unarmed, either.