Review: ‘The Art of Woo’

A disastrously amateurish script and dubious casting sinks a potentially nifty setup in "The Art of Woo," a would-be star vehicle that manages to set back everyone's careers several steps. This fall release in Canada definitely won't woo any offshore buyers.

A disastrously amateurish script and dubious casting sinks a potentially nifty setup in “The Art of Woo,” a would-be star vehicle that manages to set back everyone’s careers several steps. This fall release in Canada definitely won’t woo any offshore buyers.

Helmer-scripter Helen Lee is determined to refashion topliner Sook-Yin Lee as an Audrey Hepburn for our times, when the popular Canuck veejay’s real appeal is in her own edgy, androgynous personality. The backless gowns don’t fit, and neither does a plot that pits her Alessa Woo, a pretentious gallery worker, against hunky “Smoke Signals” lead Adam Beach as Ben Crowchild, an apparently struggling Native artist who moves into her Toronto apartment. Many confusions ensue, most based on the fact that Alessa says she’s rich and Ben, scion of a well-established Anglo aristo (John Gilbert), pretends to be poor.

Helmer hasn’t worked out who the Ben character is; an utterly cool dude at first, he loses it after falling under the spell of Alessa. She is shown as a desperately insecure loser, despite the fact that she speaks every language and can move in and out of myriad social situations with aplomb.

Handling of dialogue is equally uncertain: It’s not enough, for example, to have a gay character say “Bottoms up” when clinking glasses with handsome Ben; he has to add, “So to speak.” Script nadir comes when Alessa finally figures out her flatmate’s family status. “You guys,” she screeches, “born with silver spoons, feeding horseshit to a poor little match girl with rocks in her head!”

Pleasant soundtrack tunes are marred by bad mix, to go with blaring ADR work throughout. Only technical bright spot is found in the color-rich set design, even if interior-heavy tale doesn’t convey much sense of place. The various Lees on both sides of the camera are unrelated.

The Art of Woo

Canada

Production

An ArtStar Pix production. (International sales: Canadian Film Centre, Toronto.) Produced by Anita Lee. Executive producer, Peter O'Brian. Directed, written by Helen Lee.

Crew

Camera (color), Steve Cosens; editor, Vesta Slivanovic; music, Ron Sexsmith, Kurt Swinghammer; production designers, Rick Gilbert, Lea Carlson; set decorator, Jeff Tutt; costume designer, Sally Lee; sound, Bissa Scekic; assistant director, Darren Doyle; casting, Jenny Lewis, John Buchan. Reviewed at the Fifth Avenue Cinema, Vancouver, Sept. 26, 2001. (In Vancouver, Toronto film festivals.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Sook-Yin Lee, Adam Beach, Joel Keller, Alberta Watson, John Gilbert, Kelly Harms, Sarah Brown, Siu Ta, Damien Atkins, Inga Cadranel, Don McKellar.
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