Former Canuck bad-boy wonder Bruce McDonald comes out swinging in "The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess," a manic, messy and altogether fascinating slice of zeitgeist pie. Fast-moving pic is intended for Northland TV, and vid origins indicate an extended tube life, but "Crimes" could also gain cult status on the midnight circuit.

Former Canuck bad-boy wonder Bruce McDonald comes out swinging (after recent setbacks) in “The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess,” a manic, messy and altogether fascinating slice of zeitgeist pie. A tour-de-force performance by Joelly Collins (singer Phil’s daughter) should compensate for the parochial origins of this Canuck tale to help get this one-off experience to a wider aud. Fast-moving pic is intended for Northland TV, and vid origins indicate an extended tube life, but “Crimes” could also gain cult status on the midnight circuit.

The nature of celebrity and limitations of modern sex-roles are explored in this freewheeling dissection of a real-life 1995 murder case in which juror Gillian Guess started sleeping with one of the defendants.

A buxom babe who knows how to mask her smarts with sex appeal, Collins’ jaded juror tells her tale from the stage of a Felliniesque chatshow hosted by self-serving big-mouth Bobby Tomahawk (Hugh Dillon, the lead in helmer’s “Hard Core Logo”).

It’s a noisy and colorful device that allows flashbacks to the trial, with Ben Bass as the killer; to her childhood, with parents caught up in their own self-destructive patterns; and her teen years, with young Gillian working up the ranks from band groupie to promising college student. Her present life as a single mom to two smart, angry kids, is only touched upon, but it raises the stakes for already heated material.

McDonald’s approach is not for everyone. The constant shifting of tone, with different color schemes and rhythms for each period, is disconcerting. Ad spoofs, Bollywood production numbers and outright fantasy scenes will add up to audience walkouts. But the helmer, working from an ambitious script by Angus Fraser (“Kissed,” “A Girl Is a Girl”) has serious business working beneath the fun, even if the child-development psychology driving Guess’ oddball personality is a bit facile. (She’s depraved on accounta she was deprived.)

Solemn aspects are offset by the helmer’s light touch and his sharp use of music, both from paisley-rocker Broken Social Scene, and some production numbers involving funkier guests Josh Rouse and Lucinda Williams. Overall package has a lot of appeal to fans of pop culture at its weirdest.

The Love Crimes Of Gillian Guess

Canada

Production

A Force Four Entertainment production, in association with Citytv, with the participation of Canadian Television Fund, CanWest, Rogers Telefund and the CBC. (International sales: Force Four, Toronto.) Produced by Debra Beard, Rob Bromley, John Ritchie. Executive producer, Hugh Beard. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Screenplay, A. Fraser.

Crew

Camera (color, HDcam), Danny Nowak; editor, Karen Porter; music, Broken Social Scene; production designer, Rob Gray; art director, Ian Reynolds; set decorator, James Willcock; costume designer, Vicky Mulholland; sound, Brent Marchenski; animation, Tobias Anker; visual effects supervisor, Adam Stern; associate producer, Greg Laikin; assistant director, Rachel Leiterman; casting, Lynne Carrow. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Canadian Images), Oct. 2, 2004. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Gillian Guess - Joelly Collins Bobby Tomahawk - Hugh Dillon Peter Gill - Ben Bass Teenage Gillian - Natallia White Young Gillian - Jessica Amlee Gillian's Dad - Robert Wisden Gillian's Mum - Fiona Hogan Claire - Allie Mickelson
With: Pat Adrien Dorval, Kirsten Prout, Edgar Gail, Rob Labelle, Michael St. John Smith, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Scott Hylands, Lydia Lawson-Baird, John Prowse, Megan Leitch, Greg Laikin, Mik Ireland, Terry Chen, Haroon Khan, David "Squatch" Ward, Fabian Gujral, Genevieve Buechner.
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