|by Mark McLeod
October 17, 2003
|Gene Maxwell (Benjamin Ratner) hasn't been having one of the best years of his life. Dumped at the altar by his financé Liz (Elizabeth Berkeley) and at odds with his family over his chosen career path, the struggling novelist is coasting from meaningless day job to meaningless day job looking only for happiness and to reunite with Liz. Out of the blue and with a simple knock at the door, the two are reunited as Liz asks Gene for a favour. Recently hired to shoot a science-fiction film in Prague, the B-movie actress asks Gene if he would help her father Malcolm move into his new apartment. Unsure of what to do in this unique situation, Gene jumps at the chance to try and win back the love of his former financé while helping move her father (John Neville), an articulate Englishman with relationship problems of his own. As the two prepare for the move, Gene's plan seems to be working in that Liz is calling him and they appear to be regaining the bond they once shared though long distance and over the phone. At the same time, Gene is able to complete his unfinished novel and begin to re-open his heart to the ones who love him as well as begin to build his own self-respect.
Moving Malcolm is the screenwriting and directorial debut of well-known Canadian actor Benjamin Ratner, who has appeared in over 30 Canadian features and television series as well as appearing in small roles in such Hollywood films as A Guy Thing and Good Boy!. Ratner's first feature is a strong effort that defies the typical Hollywood romance formula, choosing to tell a more realistic life story where things don't end exactly as the characters may have hoped. The movie deals with themes such as the importance of friendship in both romantic relationships and in life in general, as well as knowing when and learning how to let go of a relationship that may not be the best one for you. Ratner's directing style is laid back, allowing his cast to create their own memorable characters and not trying to force anyone into a stereotypical-type stock character. Part of this must come from the autobiographical nature of the story and the years spent toiling away on the script and finding the right time and environment to tell this very personal story.
From a casting standpoint, Moving Malcolm is very much a family affair for Ratner as he reunites with Last Wedding co-stars Babz Chula and Jay Brazeau, who play his eccentric parents, Rebecca Harker, and Tom Scholote, who shows up in a smaller yet hilarious role as the "Mover". Ratner shows great comedic timing and serious emotion as the conflicted and yet well-meaning Gene. Ratner, who's done some serious drama, is at home with the lighter material and comes across as a charming and somewhat goofy person who's just trying to get his life in gear. Playing the lead female character is Elizabeth Berkeley, a last minute stand in for Jennifer Beals who had to drop out of the project. Berkeley, probably best known to audiences as Jessie Spano from TV's Saved by the Bell or as the exotic down-on-her-luck stripper in Showgirls, has in recent years been seen in smaller films like Rodger Dodger. Berkeley plays the role of Liz with a fresh, unassuming quality and while the character has her flaws, it's not hard to see that deep down she does have feelings for Gene, and while things may not always work out the best for the two of them, she will always hold a special place for him in her heart. In the title role of Malcolm we have veteran actor John Neville. Neville, who has credits dating back all the way to 1955, gives a heartwarming performance as the man stuck in the middle of the Gene/Liz relationship. Long past his prime and nearing closer to his death with every day, Malcolm simply wants to relive a time in his life when he was happy. Through a friendship with Gene, he realizes that he need not be miserable for the rest of his days.
One of the biggest plusses with Moving Malcolm, next to its fresh un-Hollywood-like approach to romance and friendship, is that it doesn't look and feel like a Canadian film. Although shot in Vancouver also known as Hollywood North the film has a professional look and style to it that, if you didn't know it was a Canadian movie, you might think was just a smaller American production with no big-name actors. Shot by cinematographer Gregory Middleton (Punch, Kissed) the film has a warm inviting look, which while not overly stylistic adds to the film without distracting the audience from the story and the actors' performances. On a technical level, the film looks good and one would never know that film cost only one million dollars to make and was shot over a total of just 20 days.
Moving Malcolm is not by any means a remarkable film, though it is one that manages to evoke all the human emotions a good film should. At times it's funny, at times it's touching, and it provides a solid and realistic life portrayal that shows that people can get past certain events from their past and live a happy and normal life. Featuring strong performances from its almost entirely Canadian cast and a simple story with a strong message, Moving Malcolm is one of those rare Canadian movies that needs to be supported. It's not monumental and it's sure not to break any box office records, but it has heart and at the end of the day that's really all that one can hope for. Fairing far better than I could ever hope to imagine, Moving Malcolm is a pleasant surprise and a film that is worth seeing and embracing both because of its Canadian origin and despite it.
Moving Malcolm opens Friday October 17th, 2003 in Toronto and Vancouver.