Synopsis

After being dumped at the alter a year ago, Gene Maxwell (BENJAMIN RATNER) has been living under a rock, drifting from one meaningless day job to the next while toiling away on a voluminous novel he hopes will win back the heart of his former fiancée, B movie actress, Liz Woodward (ELIZABETH BERKLEY).

Liz unexpectedly turns up on his doorstep with an audacious request - will he help move her elderly father while she flies off to Prague to star in a low budget sci-fi flick. Gene ignores the protests of his eccentric family and secretly seizes the opportunity to recapture Liz's illusive love by agreeing to move Malcolm (JOHN NEVILLE) - a distinctly articulate and cantankerous Englishman with relationship issues of his own.

As Gene and Malcolm make the big move a warm and enlightened relationship develops between the two. Gene's plan to win back Liz also seems to be working, albeit long distance. Things take a painful turn, however, as Liz once again breaks Gene's hopeful heart. But this time through Malcolm's inadvertent example, Gene is able to regain his self-respect and re-open his heart to those who know and love him best.

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Production Notes

Moving Malcolm tells the hilarious and poignant story of aspiring novelist, Gene Maxwell (BENJAMIN RATNER) and his hopeful obsession with a former fiancé - a B movie actress and veteran heart breaker, Liz Woodward (ELIZABETH BERKLEY). As Gene prepares a plan to win back the heart of this troubled vixen, his well-intentioned yet embarrassingly eccentric family vehemently protests and worried friends intervene.

The story begins with Liz dumping Gene at the alter only to unexpectedly return on his doorstep over a year later with an unusual and audacious request – will he move her sick and elderly father, Malcolm (JOHN NEVILLE), to a new apartment, while she flies off to Prague to shoot a low budget sci-fi flick. Gene secretly seizes this opportunity to recapture Liz’s illusive love and agrees to move Malcolm - a distinctly articulate, if occasionally foul-mouthed Englishman with relationship issues of his own.

As Gene and Malcolm make the big move a colourful and enlightening relationship develops between the two. Gene’s plan to win back Liz also seems to be working, albeit long distance. Things take a painful turn however, as Liz once again breaks Gene’s hopeful heart. But this time, through Malcolm’s inadvertent example, Gene is able to re-gain his self-respect and re-open his heart to those who know and love him best. Themes of acceptance and self-realization emerge from this well written and tightly scripted story.

Life itself proved to be the best writing partner for writer, actor and first time director Benjamin Ratner. Moving Malcolm is a loosely autobiographical tale of love, fear and acceptance inspired by Ratner’s real life family and friends. The film presents the universal theme of acceptance -- acceptance of lovers, family and friends – the people that drive us to the edge and back as we struggle to accept ourselves.

“The first few days of shooting felt like something I was going through. After that it became something I was doing. And I loved every minute of it.” says Benjamin Ratner of rising to the challenges of writing, starring in and directing his first feature film.
Elizabeth Berkley was suitably impressed with Ratner’s directorial skills, drawing a strong parallel to writer, actor and director Woody Allen whom Berkley worked with on Curse of the Jade Scorpion. “Ben and Woody share a skill and talent for capturing humanity. There's an amazing observation of human behaviour at its most real and pure, whether it's reflecting humour or pain. It's just real, it's not playing for schtick. I'm blown away by Ben, I really am -- as an actor, as a writer, as a filmmaker now."

Benjamin Ratner could not have asked for a better co-star himself, “Elizabeth is totally prepared and emotionally committed to every moment in this film. She has put her heart and soul on the line and created a compelling and enigmatic character. The entire cast and crew was blown away by Elizabeth’s performance in this film.”
No stranger to the independent film world, Benjamin Ratner has starred in some Canada’s most notable Indie films and called on his real life friends and fellow (Bruce) Sweeney veterans Babz Chula, Jay Brazeau and Rebecca Harker to play the roles of his on screen family.

Babz Chula and Jay Brazeau play the loveably crazed parents of Gene Maxwell, who try desperately to dissuade Gene from his ill-fated reconciliation, while caught up in their own unusual and complicated family dynamic.

"I could make a living being Ben's Father." quipped Brazeau on the Moving Malcolm set referring to his previous role playing Ben’s father in Last Wedding. “Aside from my friendship with Ben what attracted me to this project was the hilarity and overall quality of the script. Ben has a Christopher Guest/ Robert Altman style of directing. He is very intuitive and very considerate to his actors and crew. He can stretch a nickel into a dime and make it look like a dollar. "

Nick Lea plays Gene’s most rational and forceful ally as Liz’s deceitful nature threatens to sabotage his best friend’s future once again. Audiences can expect to see some hilarious star cameos as Ratner’s real life friends and past co-stars pop up unexpectedly in various scenes – including Last Wedding cast mates Tom Scholte, Frida Betrani and Nancy Sivak.

Moving Malcolm was written and directed by Benjamin Ratner and marks Ratner’s directorial debut. Executive Producers are Crescent Entertainment’s Jayme Pfahl and Christine Haebler. Producers are Paul Armstrong, Bridget Hill and Benjamin Ratner. Greg Middlelton is the award winning Director of Photography and the film is edited by Ross Weber.

The production has been funded by Telefilm Canada, BC Film and the CanWest Western Independent Producers Fund in association with broadcasters: Citytv/CHUM Network, Movie Central, TMN and the production’s Canadian distributor is Mongrel Media.

Director’s Notes

I wanted to make a funny, entertaining film with a resonant emotional core. Moving Malcolm is about family, acceptance, and the struggle for emotional maturity. Serious themes, but as Oscar Wilde once said, “life is too important to be taken seriously.”

The process of writing, and simultaneously directing and acting in this, my directorial debut, was definitely a challenge. But I felt confident that I had a deep and personal understanding of the material, and I was thoroughly prepared in all departments. I also had the good fortune of working with wise and experienced consultants, and was supported by a fantastic production team, cast, and crew.

Casting was easy. Babz Chula and Jay Brazeau were obvious choices for Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell, Gene’s parents. They’re good pals of mine, and amazing actors whom I’ve worked with many times, most notably in Last Wedding, in which Babz played my mother-in law and Jay played my father. Rebecca Harker spent many hours with my real-life autistic sister, and skilfully incorporated much authenticity and detail into her portrayal of Jolea, while also bringing her own unique spin and humour to the part. Nicholas Lea is another good friend. The role of Herbert was written for him, and it’s a showcase for his little-seen comedic prowess. Elizabeth Berkley came onboard later in the process. She was recommended to me by Jennifer Beals, who was originally cast in the role of Liz Woodward, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. After a long phone call with Elizabeth, in which we talked about the characters and the themes of the film, she enthusiastically agreed to do the role before she had even read the script. She arrived in Vancouver completely prepared and delivered a sensitive, dynamic, and totally committed performance.
John Neville read an early draft of the script three years ago, and we stayed in touch through the development and financing process. When we were finally ready to go, John was thrilled. It was a great pleasure to work alongside such a skilled veteran. He honoured us all always with his humility, generosity, and deft touch as Malcolm.
Cinematographer Gregory Middleton’s rock solid, confident presence on set was a great asset to the production. The visual warmth and depth he was able to create on our tight budget and schedule is nothing short of remarkable. Working with Production Designer Michael Tiernan, Gregory greatly supported and enhanced the realistic, yet ever-so-slightly larger-than-life tone I was striving for with the actors’ performances. It’s a real world, but a world seen uniquely and colourfully through the eyes of Gene Maxwell.

Musically, Chris Ainscough’s compositions, along with original songs by Jim Boggia and Shael Wrinch and David Friend, among others, provide a soulful foundation for the film’s action, which careens unpredictably from rather absurd comedy to more sombre, subtle moments.

Ultimately, I hope Moving Malcolm delivers an empowering message that will resonate with audiences
long after the final credits roll.

- Benjamin Ratner -