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This slacker saga carves out a distinctive territory between the raunchy guy antics of "Clerks" and the more mainstream concerns of "The Brothers McMullen." Vancouver-made pic is probably too gentle to find easy marketing hook, but it succeeds beautifully on its own small terms.

This slacker saga carves out a distinctive territory between the raunchy guy antics of “Clerks” and the more mainstream concerns of “The Brothers McMullen.” Vancouver-made pic is probably too gentle to find easy marketing hook, but it succeeds beautifully on its own small terms.

As lost-in-the-‘burbs Trevor MacIntosh, a 23-year-old virgin trying to leave home, likable Tom Scholte makes a strong impression without doing much more than a Canuck Woody Allen impression (“It’s all been downhill since breastfeeding” is how he describes his romantic history). Dry wisecracks are just about all Trevor can muster, since he feels generally steamrollered by his macho older brother (David Lovgren), overprotective mom (Babz Chula) and tomcatting dad (Kevin McNulty).

His attempts to connect with a neurotic actress (Laara Sadiq) fall flat, and his next liaison, with a grungy groupie (Michelle Beaudoin), also fizzles. That’s when he hooks up with Charlotte Peacock (Micki Maunsell), a successful artist in her 60s who accepts the lad without judgment or expectation. Their relationship eventually turns romantic, but this is handled in the lightest possible way.

The same can’t be said of a subplot with Trevor’s new roommate, Reg (Kelly Aisenstat), a schlubby would be boxer who seems imported strictly for sitcom reasons. It’s the only misstep in a tale that otherwise skates smoothly between dark laughs and deep feeling. The dialogue is consistently witty, with references ranging from Sartre to Snoop Doggy Dogg, sometimes in the same conversation, and new helmer Bruce Sweency handles all the characters — whether sweethearts or skunks — with equal affection.

David Pelletier’s cool B&W lensing ranges sensuously from washed-out lakeside scenes to spooky suburbs at night. Acoustic jazz score by pseudonymous Sweet Dick Willie initially adds irony, but soon becomes sluggish and repetitive. Sound and music could stand to be souped up in a new print, if adventurous distribs want to pitch in.

Live Bait

(CANADIAN)

Production: A Cypher Prods. Inc. (Vancouver) production. Produced, directed, written by Bruce Sweeney.

Crew: Camera (B&W, 16mm), David Pelletier; editors, Ross Weber, Sweeney; music, Sweet Dick Willie; production design, Wendy Hyman; art direction , Steve Cameron; costume design, Dena Galay, Jennifer Barker; sound, Anthony Couture; associate producer, Linda Guns. Reviewed on videocassette, Vancouver, Sept. 7, 1995. (In Toronto, Vancouver film festivals.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Tom Scholte, Micki Maunsell, Kevin McNulty, Babz Chula, David Lovgren, Jay Brazeau, Michelle Beaudoin, Laara Sadiq, Kelly Aisenstat, Suzanne Ristic, John Pozer.

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