Sunday, March 15, 2009

Growing Op in Moncton

In the summer of 2006, an independent film called Growing Op was shot in Moncton. A few of my students had been hired as extras, and one even got to say a couple of lines. I had totally forgotten about this, until I read about it in Here Weekly.

Despite the fact the film was shot in the city, it had yet to be screened in Moncton. This did not surprise me. It’s often difficult for Canadian film to find an audience. The absence of the move from local multiplex probably would have gone unnoticed had a concerned citizen not written a letter to the Times and Transcript. Luckily, the manager of the Trinity Drive Empire Theatres arranged to have two special screenings this past Saturday.

Amanda and I decided to attend the 4:30 show despite not knowing much about the film. We thought it’d be cool to see Moncton on screen, but we were a little afraid that it would be a stupid stoner comedy that would only be funny if we were high. We were pleasantly surprised.

The first surprise was the crowd; the show sold out. I was worried the movie would play to an empty house. Too often I’ve watched independent cinema in near empty theatres. The worst example of this was back in university, when my friend Jeff and I enjoyed The Divine Ryans with two other people. At the time Jeff worked at a local radio station and one of his perks was free movie passes, so there were only two people that night who’d actually paid to see the movie. I felt so guilty that after the movie I tried to pay the price of admission. To make up for not paying, Jeff and I encouraged our friends to go see the movie and we even convinced a few to go, but when they went later in the week- the movie had already been replaced.

So luckily, Growing Op did not suffer the same low attendance. There was an enthusiastic crowd on hand to watch this unique coming of age story. Quinn is an isolated 17 year old, who mows lawns part-time to avoid helping his parents run their in-house marijuana grow-op. He seems to be more uptight and conservative than his family and longs to be normal. Quinn is lonely and tired of being home schooled; he develops a crush on the girl next door and decides against his parent’s wishes to enrol at the local high school. He quickly realizes that life as a normal teenager is not exactly what he expected and by the end of the movie wishes that he’d not gotten caught up in the drama of high school.

Growing Op has an aesthetic similar to other Canadian movies like C.R.A.Z.Y. or New Waterford Girl. There’s quirky humour, smart dialogue and lots of local content. There are scenes that take place at Moncton High School, Assomption Place, L’Ecole Odessay and obvious shots of Moncton’s skyline. The movie is set in Riverview, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be Riverview, NB.

There was a scene late in the film, when Quinn finds money and it’s obviously the greenback. The film makers want to keep the locale generic enough, in hopes of getting American distribution. However, there is enough CANCON to make it feel Canadian. There were token references to both Degrassi and The Guess Who. The movie also prominently features songs by Maritime musicians Jill Barber, Joel Plaskett, Jenn Grant and Matt Mayes. Watching this movie was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The movie has likable characters and is thoughtful without being too sentimental. If you have a chance to see it you should definitely check it out. This movie deserves to have an audience. Canadians should support this movie.

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