REGINA LEADER POST Schultz Delivers Screen Gem
By Eric Volmers, Canwest News Service March 20, 2009
Go ahead and cringe at the thought of another Canadian coming-of-age film.
At first, former Reginan David Schultz's 45 RPM certainly appears to trot down a well-worn path of dusty cliches. First love, small-town malaise, sexual awakening and the redemptive promise of rock and roll all fit into Schultz's 1960s-era tale. There's even a wise native on hand to dole out advice to our young protagonist and a lovelorn tomboy who serves up clunky lines such as "I'm not a little girl anymore ..."
But 45 RPM works in a low-key way that often seems quintessentially Canadian. It's quietly subversive while still being heartfelt; unsettling while still managing to maintain an accessible, tightly focused and entertaining narrative.
Filmed in Regina, 45 RPM is ostensibly about two teenage outsiders in the fictional town of Goose Lake who are convinced that a New York City radio contest offering winners free airfare to the Big Apple is a ticket out of a their hopeless lives.
Parry (Jordan Gavaris) is a Huck Finn-like orphan being raised by a kind native (August Schellenberg) and pursued by a grumpy constable (Kim Coates) who seems unduly obsessed with the boy's truancy. Luke (Justine Banszky) is a cap gun-wielding tomboy with a batty mother (Amanda Plummer), dark secrets and a seemingly unrequited love for her best friend.
Things are complicated when an American military man (Michael Madsen) brings his lovely blond daughter (MacKenzie Porter) to town. She quickly steals Parry's heart, much to Luke's jealous annoyance.
On the spectrum of our country's coming-of-age films, Schultz's tale falls somewhere between harsh, lyrical works such as Jean-Claude Lauzon's Leolo or Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter and more conventional fare such as Who Has Seen the Wind or My American Cousin.
The drama and rare moments of comedy are served up straight, landing miles away from the irony-laced feel of modern youth sagas such as Juno or Rushmore. But when the darkness in the script bubbles to the surface as Schultz delves into Cold War paranoia, sexual abuse and bigotry, we're left feeling appropriately unsettled with a snapshot of what were hardly the "good ol' days" for many. While hardly A-listers, the film's screen veterans all conduct themselves admirably in what could have been cliched roles. Madsen proves yet again that -- when he's not slicing off ears with a razor blade -- he can convey warmth, given the right role. Playing characters at risk of seeming one-dimensional, the reliable Schellenberg and Coates offer real depth.
Plummer, meanwhile, finds the desperation and sadness beneath a decidedly unlikable character. But the film really belongs to its two young stars. Gavaris and Banszky don't look like teen actors. They lack the timing and affectations of more polished young pros, which makes them all the more believable as characters who are uncomfortable in their own skin and surroundings.
But it may be Schultz who emerges as the real diamond in the rough with his subtle screenplay and deft hand with actors. His vision surfaces quietly but surely through the fog of coming-of-age cliches, offering viewers something that will linger long after the final credits roll.
Schultz is scheduled to attend the 7 p.m. screening at the RPL tonight (March 20/09) and will conduct a Q&A session following the screening.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
VUE WEEKLY Review 5 stars out of 5
By Kristina de Guzman
The title is misleading, because while 45rpm contains LPs and turntables, music only acts as a catalyst for what this film so subtly but perfectly portrays: the relationships that we often take for granted but which matter the most in our lives. Although the characters encounter situations that would usually have most actors chewing the scenery, the cast of 45rpm are able to evoke powerful emotions from the viewer without having to resort to such theatrics. Nearly all of the actors effortlessly demand your attention and have given what may be some of the most captivating performances I've seen in a film all year. KD
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL Review 3 stars out of 4
By Mari Sasano
Small-town rebel without a cause
Imagine Huck Finn trapped in the isolated wilds of 1960s northern Saskatchewan (Medium size sub heading)
Living in the age of satellites and Internet, we take for granted how easily we connect to the rest of the world. But as Canadians outside of cities close to the American border, we are actually quite isolated. There was a time when something like hearing the latest music was a frustrating near-impossibility, making teenage life in northern Canada a kind of trap to escape.
45 RPM, directed by Saskatchewan's Dave Schultz, takes us back to those times. Parry (Jordan Gavaris) is a misfit in the small town of Goose Lake, whose claim to fame is as an American military base, part of the Distant Early Warning line in northern Canada. He's the "Huck Finn of Goose Lake," playing truant so he can wander in the forest and daydream about a way out. Parry is a loner, save for two friends: he is raised by Peter George (August Schellenberg), a Cree elder who knew Parry's mother before she died; and Stacey "Luke" Lucas (Edmonton's Justine Banszky), a tomboy who is just as eager to get out of Goose Lake.
Hope comes to them on a freak transmission from a New York radio station: the DJ (Terry David Mulligan) announces a contest -- identify 30 songs in 30 seconds -- to win a trip to the big city. But a complication arrives in the form of Debbie (MacKenzie Porter), the daughter of a U.S. air force major, who catches Parry's eye. Suddenly, long-dormant emotions and the realities of growing up begin to erode Luke and Parry's friendship as they are forced to face unspoken truths.
This is nostalgia without the whitewashing: life was not simpler in the early '60s. The Cold War was a real threat, and the government was there to keep people scared and ignorant. Opportunities for women were still limited, and people openly discriminated against orphans, single mothers and aboriginal Canadians. This is a small-town Canadian Rebel Without a Cause, without the glamour, or a David Gordon Green film stripped of rural romanticism. 45 RPM is more like an anti-bourgeois My American Cousin. These kids have a lot more to worry about than spurned crushes -- although that's something to contend with, too.
The sense of isolation of a northern boreal forest, its spindly trees giving cover and nowhere to hide at the same time, echoes the plight of Parry and Luke, who are under the protection and scrutiny of a small town. A city might open up new horizons and offer more in terms of finding a like-minded community, but they also know that the intimacy of their community is the safest place they will ever be.
Even in Edmonton, these are familiar feelings. And although Gavaris and Banszky are inexperienced as actors, their demeanour wouldn't be completely out of place in a small town.
Gavaris, in particular, does right by the role: young and eager for life, without seeming like an innocent. Schellenberg, too, is a treat, even in such a small role.
And that's the strength of 45 RPM, and ultimately the lesson of the Internet age: global culture is easy to be a part of, but it can also swallow you up.
The only strength you have as an individual is your knowledge of the small, the local and the intimate.
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL Edmonton teen born to her RPM role.
By Mari Sasano
When director first saw Banszky, it was 'sign her' at first sight.
Sixteen-year-old Edmonton actor Justine Banszky has the most girlish answer to the question: Why does she love acting?
"I like playing dress up!" she says, laughing. Luckily, she gets to dress up for her role in the film 45 RPM - in boys' clothing.
Her character, Luke, is a tomboy living in a small town in northern Canada in the early 1960s. Luke is the best friend of the main character, Parry, played by Jordan Gavaris, and carries as much of the film as he does. It's amazing because this is Banszky's first film role.
"Basically, my mom thought I'd like doing extra work, and then two or three years ago, I decided I wanted to get into acting. They sent me a script and I liked it. I had to tape an audition because they were in Calgary, but I ended up getting called back."
It sounds so easy, but it seems that the right role fell into her hands at the right time: she sees so much of herself in Luke.
"Luke and I are both tomboyish, so I just brought that to my character. I like skateboarding and video games. But her personality is so strong; she doesn't need anybody to take care of her. She's inspiring to me."
Writer/director David Schultz agrees.
"I thought that was going to be a tough role to cast. If you're writing a novel, it's easy, but with film you actually have to find a girl who can pass for a boy, but still can look like a girl. And then there's the age thing. Then I saw her in the hallway and thought, 'Oh my God, I hope she can act!' It���s so funny. She used to ask how many girls we saw before her, but the reality is, I knew it was her at first sight."
Banszky was so convincing that she had actor Michael Madsen, who never shared the screen with her, fooled. That's when Schultz knew his instincts were right.
"One day he told me, 'There's this kid who keeps hanging around with a gun.' And I said, 'Oh, she's in the movie.' He was surprised that she's a girl. And he said, 'Well, she's going to steal this movie'."
The experience was just as exciting for Banszky.
"There's so many crew members and huge lights. It's really cool. I kind of looked at it as an adventure, and everyone was supportive and let me experience that for myself," she says. And though she was nervous, she had the complete support of her director and sought lots of advice from August Schellenberg, a 40year veteran in the trade. And with this film under her belt, she's eager to do more work.
"I think I'm not as nervous now, so I can start to go into it a bit more. And now that I've done this, I can get into a bigger playing field.
"I want to keep auditioning and getting more roles. And I want to eventually get into directing, or become an archeologist."
CALGARY HERALD Still growing up
Eric Volmers - Published: Saturday, September 20, 2008
A new generation is redefining the old earnest Canadian coming-of-age movie
When David Schultz walked into the office of a Canadian investor a few years back to pitch his new film, the meeting was almost over before it began.
The former Calgarian was selling his idea for a movie about a teenager growing up in a small Saskatchewan town who dreams of winning a New York City radio contest.
45 R.P.M., which will have its world premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival on Sunday, is more complicated than that slim plot synopsis suggests. But Schultz made the mistake of describing it with what are probably four of the most ubiquitous words in Canadian film-pitch history.
"He asked what my movie was about," says Schultz, in a recent interview in Calgary. "I said, 'It's a coming-of-age movie.' And he said, 'Oh, Jesus Christ . . . .' And I said, 'No, no, no . . . this is different, this is different.' "
The would-be investor -- who would eventually be among those green-lighting the movie-- can be forgiven for having visions of a barefoot boy chasing gophers through the prairies and receiving life lessons from grizzled farm hands.
Few premises have produced such a large number of clunky Canadian feel-good dramas as the tried-and-true coming-of-age formula.
But Schultz wasn't blowing hot air when he said his would be different. While his orphaned protagonist Parry Tender invokes the image of Huckleberry Finn more than once, there are shades of darkness lurking beneath this Prairie drama.
Taking place in the fictional Goose Lake, Sask., in 1960, 45 R.P.M. starts out to the strains of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven like a Saskatchewan version of American Graffiti. But soon some unsettling themes -- Cold War paranoia, gender confusion, sexual abuse and bigotry -- begin to creep into the storyline. Parry is ostracized and the product of violence. His best friend "Luke" is a tomboy who carries around a toy cap gun in a holster and harbours dark secrets.
"Someone once told me 'Dave, you don't make kids' films,' " Schultz says with a laugh. " 'You make films with kids in them.' But I like working with kids. When you write for kids, you have a certain freedom. They don't react to things the way (older) people do. There are some dark themes to it. Canada has this reputation of making dark films . . . but in a way this is an old-fashioned love story between the girl and the boy."
The coming-of-age saga certainly isn't a Canada-only film phenomenon. At the Calgary International Film Festival this year, offerings from Iceland (Children), Sweden (Let the Right One In) and the U.S. (Touching Home) are just a few of the films that fit loosely into that category. But in Canada, such films fit snugly into what sadly may be the most important criteria of our national cinema: they are cheap to make.
These stories generally do not require special effects, flamboyant sets or star names to make fly. And since we've all been teenagers coming to terms with the demands of maturity at some point or another, the potential for universal appeal is large.
With a budget of nearly $4 million, 45 R.P.M. is in the higher stratosphere of Canadian indie films in terms of cost. But Schultz still had to shoot the movie in just 17 days in Regina. His time for development, casting and location scouting was roughly a month. And while Michael Madsen, Kim Coates, Amanda Plummer and August Schellenberg offer some name recognition in the cast, the most remarkable performances come from leads Jordan Gavaris and Justine Banszky -- neither of whom had acted before this film. All of which presented some major challenges during filming.
"Making movies is tough," says Schultz. "It's a small Canadian market. People think making movies is fun and it can be. But you don't sleep for days. If you screw up, you screw up. It's all there to see. You don't get to do it again. This isn't Hollywood."
But if Canada has a long history of numbingly earnest, cheaply made coming-of-age dramas, it has an equally proud record of cheerfully skewering the genre. For every Who Has Seen the Wind, My American Cousin, Saint Ralph and Bordertown Cafe, there's dark or quirky counterparts such as The Sweet Hereafter, Leolo, Breakfast with Scott and Nobody Waved Good-bye.
Schultz's recent film may fall somewhere in the middle. But he put his own dark stamp on the genre with his 2001 debut Jet Boy by having a 14-year-old street hustler as his protagonist.
Still, some Canadian filmmakers say they'd prefer their coming-of-age dramas not fall into either category or, for that matter, be considered quintessentially Canadian at all.
Cape Breton playwright and filmmaker Michael Melski's comedy-drama Growing Op, which premieres on Sept. 23 at the Calgary film fest, is about a teenager living in a marijuana growing operation with his flaky, ex-hippie parents -- making it decidedly more irreverent than your average episode of Jake and the Kid.
But it's also not a particularly dark film, he says.
"I would say it's a fun Canadian film -- it's like Juno with a boy," says Melski. "If being funny and entertaining are Canadian values then we are Canadian. But too often in our industry we seem ashamed of our ability to be entertaining. I want to be part of a new wave of filmmakers who are unabashedly making sure people are entertained. We're really good at making art films in this country that get onto the world stage. I think we have yet to prove that we can be funny on the world stage."
Melski, who made Growing Op for $1.8 million in New Brunswick, says his movie was influenced by The Graduate, Rushmore, Juno and -- that granddaddy of all coming-of-age films -- Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows.
There is nothing in the film to indicate what country, much less town, it takes place in. Melski said he wanted the film to be universal.
"It's a very lonely time when you're a teenager," Melski says. "You are very vulnerable to the powers of love, family, the status quo. All those feelings are amplified. I think all these films bring that nostalgia and sense of recognition and we can relate to that person who is coming of age. No matter how old you are, everyone can directly relate to that phase."
CALGARY SUN Coming of age tale soars
By Rick Overwater
Shot around Regina by Calgary's Nomadic Pictures, 45 RPM is a coming-of-age-tale exploring the awkwardness of youth from angles that make this oft-rehashed theme almost new again.
The year is 1958 and, for the Canadian residents of Goose Bay, just south of the DEW radar line from an American air force base, Cold War paranoia is at an all-time high.
Parry Tender is a gawky 15-year-old knocked on his ear when the pretty daughter of a U.S. Air Force general rolls into town.
In constant trouble with the local RCMP for his habitual truancy, he actually finds himself willingly attending school upon her arrival.
Meanwhile, his tomboy best friend, Stacey Luke, nurses a newly blossoming crush for Parry and deals with issues of her own; dark ones that slowly boil to the surface of 45 RPM and thrust the three teenagers in unexpected directions.
Bent on winning a trip to New York from a radio contest he would normally never hear except for very-timely atmospheric conditions, Parry fixates on escaping Goose Bay.
Ultimately, 45 RPM is a tale of self-awareness and redemption that successfully veils many of its final revelations until its final minutes. With a supporting cast that includes well-known broadcaster Terry David Mulligan and Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), it peers beneath the veneer of innocence attributed to the '50s but, much to director David Schultz's credit, never becomes uncomfortably sordid or heavy-handed.