The Toronto Star
Simple Curve's Simple Appeal
A small Canadian film generates some big buzz
Ah, buzz — that intangible murmur that becomes perceptively louder the closer you get to its source. Lately, writer-director Aubrey Nealon and actor Kris Lemche aren't just getting an earful — by now, they're probably deafened by it.
Their coming-of-age indie flick A Simple Curve has just been chosen by the Toronto Film Festival Group as one of Canada's Top Ten of 2005 and hit screens in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver this week before it opens nationwide.
During a press day last week at the Drake Hotel, the boyish pair appear exhausted yet exhilarated, yammering away non-stop with wide-eyed earnestness about their labour of love.
Nealon's first feature following a handful of well-received shorts, A Simple Curve is the story of Caleb, a young man raised by hippie parents in British Columbia's Slocan Valley who's trying to find his own way in the world.
Nealon wrote the largely autobiographical script over the course of five years (an early draft won an award in 2002 from the Writer's Guild of Canada for the best feature screenplay by an unproduced writer), finally cobbling together the financing to make his dream a reality, and the movie was shot in the Slocan Valley in the summer of 2004.
Star Lemche, 27, who grew up in Brampton before heading to L.A. to make his way in the world of showbiz (he's best known to audiences for his role as "The Cute Boy God" in now-defunct TV series Joan of Arcadia), knew nothing about his character's small-town world before arriving in Slocan Valley, but came to appreciate its quiet charms.
"There's a lot of resitance to slowing down and embracing that type of culture, when you're in this crazy, high-anxiety, never-stop-moving mentality of city life. But once I did — and no matter when I talk about it, I know I must sound ridiculous and no one believes me — but it's heaven!" Lemche says.
Nealon notes that finding the right actor to play Caleb was crucial to making his movie, and sure enough, the engaging Lemche carries the film, appearing in nearly every scene.
"It's only the single most important thing — it's a movie where if you don't care about the people you're watching on screen, you're not going to be interested. Because it's not like you're going to wait for the next car chase or anything," Nealon laughs. "That's why I was just so happy to get Kris involved, because he's got this likable quality. You know you're watching someone with charisma when they're making bad choices and you still like them."
"I haven't lived here or been part of the movie scene here for seven years, so I rarely get Canadan scripts," Lemche adds. "This one came to me because everyone who had read it loved it. I said 'sure' knowing this was a small Canadian film and there was no money involved in doing it, but I just loved it so much."
Lemche laughs. "I guess they must've been pretty desperate," he quips, "because a week later I got a phone call from Aubrey saying, 'Let's do it.'
"It's very rare to watch something and be proud of it. I still nitpick all the time over what I'm doing, but it's a nice thing to have something of quality in your life, especially in this day and age in the entertainment business, when you don't have the opportunity to be picking everything you do. I mean, I'm not doing Dawson's Creek on the WB so I don't have a bank account with $7 million waiting. I'm trying my damnest to kind of scrounge out some kind of career I can be proud of and still eat, but every once in awhile you really luck out," he beams.
But for all the buzz surrounding their movie, both Lemche and Nealon know that despite its potential for wide appeal it'll still be a struggle to get people out to watch it.
"This is an accessible film, and one that audiences seem to enjoy, but the promotional budgets for these projects are tiny," Nealon sighs. "I hope this doesn't turn into another article about young Canadian filmmakers complaining, but we need to start going to see our own movies," he says.
Having seen both sides of the movie-making machine, Lemche's far more direct in his criticism of the homegrown industry.
"I hate the way we make movies in Canada. It's the worst film system I've ever been a part of anwhere in the world except Romania," he howls, completely straight-faced. "The idea that we have nobody with the courage or love of movie-making to finance films in this country — I'm doing this rant, yes," he throws over his shoulder at an increasingly agitated Nealon.
"Anything deemed 'not Canadian enough' is not produced — which usually means, 'too American.' I've spent a lot of time in both countries," Lemche says, "and they're the most culturally identical countries I've ever been to. Cutting out what's 'too American' in Canadian films is cutting out a a large part of what it means to be Canadian. And why are we so ashamed to make popular things?"
© The Toronto Star