Thursday, 4 May 2017

JACKIE BOY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Angry Young Men in Grotesque Canuck Kitchen Sink

Jackie Boy (2015)
Dir. Cody Campanale
Starring: Alino Giraldi, Shannon Coulter, Edward Charette,
Andrew Di Rosa, Chloe Van Landschoot, Christina Bryson

Review by Greg Klymkiw

This grim, powerful slice-of-life exploration of male bonding and misogyny is the best feature film of its kind since 1997's In the Company of Men and is, in fact, far more aesthetically whole and bereft of the quick, easy moralistic turns taken in Neil LaBute's foray into manly meanness. Though it lacks LaBute's satirically-edged humour, this is not a problem at all since writer-director Cody Campanale is clearly burrowed into the kitchen sink realism of mannish hatreds (not unlike films from the 60's British New Wave such as This Sporting Life, Room at the Top and Look Back in Anger).

Here we find three layabout buddies in their late 20s, living aimlessly in the dreary post-war suburbs of Hamilton. The group's Alpha-Male is Jack (Alino Giraldi), the strikingly handsome and sexy cocksman who lives in a morass of drugs, booze and one night stands in the clubs. After finding out that one of his female conquests has a boyfriend, he snaps a bunch of nude provocative photos of her and uploads them to social media, just to humiliate her and brag to his buddies about how badass he was. Kal (Edward Charette) might even harbour deeper feelings of hatred towards women and we get considerable clues that he is, in fact, repressing his homosexuality. Tony (Andrew Di Rosa) is a major loser with a hot life partner who puts up with his general untidiness, unemployment and increasing weight gain, but she's near the end of her charitable rope.

These men are pigs. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This is a good thing. Campanale seeks not to explain away their behaviour, nor does he attempt to falsely attribute positive aspects to their foul personae. Watching the film is uncanny - sickeningly so. I know these men and even recognize (to my shame) bits and pieces of myself. Campanale's sense of observation is masterly and he's offered considerable support to this end from his cast, cinematographer and an outstanding score.

However, watching these guys be pigs for a whole film would be too much and Campanale's deft screenplay realistically provides a spanner in the works. Jack meets Jasmine (Sharon Coulter), a smart, funny and unbelievably sexy young woman who refuses to succumb to his bullshit. This makes him want her even more - so much so, that the unthinkable happens and he begins to fall in love with her. Having normal feelings for a woman pisses off his buds mightily and the film creepily edges to a shocking climax.

Unfortunately, I wish Campanale had trusted in the inevitability of the story's actions and had not succumbed to working a "surprise" sub-plot in to deflect attention away from the said (and sad) inevitability. It's the one false note in a movie that is refreshingly without them (and keeps the picture from attaining masterpiece potential). Still, it's a terrific film and to its undying credit that this one glaring flaw doesn't keep the movie from sinking too deeply into a quagmire of disappointment.

Ultimately, Jackie Boy is the real thing. So is its director.


Sidenote: Campanale's film weirdly reminded me of a short film I wrote and directed for the now-defunct OMDC Calling Card Programme in 2000 called Zabava. The short swam about in the bucket of piss known as Ukrainian-Canadian man-boys treating women like shit. Though not derivative of my film in any way, there are narrative elements in Campanale's feature that are strikingly similar to my short, proving only that misogyny carries over in similar ways from generation to generation.

Jackie Boy opens May 5 at The Royal Cinema via A71.