An actors’ exercise through and through, ambitious dramedy “L’Audition” reps a big, bold, crowd-pleasing writing-helming debut from popular Quebecois thesp Luc Picard. Though sprawling tale about a soft-hearted repo man-turned-actor and the well-meaning oddballs in his life will play as heavy-handed and obvious to some, others will respond to the themes of fatherhood and redemption laced among the quirky perfs and schematic storytelling. Winner of the inaugural New Montreal FilmFest’s grand prize as well as audience awards for feature and Picard’s weary perf, the pic will take bows on home turf, but may have tougher going in out-of-town tryouts.
The strain of living with 40-year-old low-level enforcer Louis (Picard) is beginning to show on his emotional waitress g.f. Suzie (Suzanne Clement), who is dismayed and angered one morning to find a severed finger in the toilet bowl. Louis traces the screw-up to the fate of a recent client engineered by his dimwitted partner Marco (Alexis Martin, doing Johnny Knoxville via “Taxi”-era Christopher Lloyd).
Weary of the stress caused by his job, fundamentally decent Louis redoubles his secret ambition to become an actor. Paired by a casting agency cousin with former tube star Philippe (Denis Bernard), the enforcer shows talent as, in anticipation of a big audition he rehearses a heart-tugging monologue written as a man’s final message to his 2-year-old son.
Meanwhile, Suzie discovers she’s pregnant, but can’t bring herself to break the news to Louis. When Louis glimpses her showing off baby clothes to pals and, after he nails the audition, things seem to be looking up for the couple. But tragically, Louis’ past catches up with him, and the taped audition gains new urgency and meaning.
Dedicated to Picard’s own young son, textured but often obvious script was apparently written after Picard, whose fine work includes the lead in Bernard Emond’s “8:17 p.m. Darling Street,” went without significant work for nearly two years. Story is laced with showcase moments for the fine cast, highlights of which include Bernard’s disastrous audition of the monologue in front of a hostile director (“Far Side of the Moon” helmer Robert Lepage); Suzie’s stunned reaction to a horrible car accident; Louis’ date with destiny; and Marco’s fractured meditations on fast food and sex.
Tech package is sleek and unobtrusive, with fine use made of a colorful, comfortable Montreal autumn.