A correction was made to this review on July 21, 2003.
Unspoiled locations, a light helming touch, and a breakout lead performance give this wee Maritime tale more heft than it would otherwise enjoy. Sandy-haired Brad Pitt-type Jeff Douglas, known to Northland tube watchers as the emphatically plaid-wearing “I am Canadian” guy in a popular series of Molson ads, plays a tour guide pushing 30, but more lost than his same-aged pals. Neatly shot pic becomes gradually less original as it drifts toward kissy-face windup, but a careful trimming of narrative fat could make newcomer Scott Simpson’s “Touch & Go” a touch more goable for an indie-friendly distrib.
Douglas demonstrates considerable star appeal as Darcy, a charming ne’er-do-well whose gift for gab snags tourist babes in funky, seaside Halifax — although he’s inarticulate when it comes to anything resembling his feelings. Darcy’s seemingly content to skateboard his days away, crashing with beer-keg buddies and riffing into the microphone of a tour bus owned by his crusty fisherman grandpa (Joseph Rutten).
The rest of his crowd is growing up. Sharp-witted Lynn (Patricia Zentilli) has just been offered a marketing gig in Minneapolis; she’s taking Darcy’s best friend — and her b.f. — Peter (Stephen Sharkey), with her. Not that Peter minds packing in his job as a singing iceberg at a local supper-club (in “Titanic: The Musical”). In fact, his run is almost done when he’s hit on by an attractive older women in the audience (Karen Beverly) who also happens to be a talent agent.
The ensuing crisis puts Darcy on the spot, caught between loyalties to his two closest pals, and sparks eventually fly with Lynn, even as she gets ready to leave town. His attempts to rekindle an exploitative relationship with a pretty lawyer-in-training (Cassie Macdonald) he’s been stringing along only make everyone more confused, and events inevitably conspire to force the shaggy man-child to make some kind of stand.
Helmer, who co-wrote with Michael Melski (who tackled much heavier fare in last year’s “Mile Zero”), deftly sketches the little-seen underside of his Nova Scotia harbor town, while introducing a raft of appealing side characters, including the self-described “worst roommate in the world” (Glen Michael Grant), who bails out on Darcy when neither can make the rent, and a 13-year-old skate punk (impressive young Ellen Page) to whom Darcy looks to for moral guidance.
Most of the way, pic has a quirky, original style, brushing against youth-movie touchstones without getting hung up on them. But from the moment Simpson bungles the big payoff scene, things begin to fall apart. Romantic denouement is pleasant without being all that satisfying, although ambiguous finish is a nicely realistic twist. Zentilli doesn’t make a particular scintillating match with Douglas — and even he outwears his welcome by the end. Tech specs are solid, with bonus points for flavorful folk-rock score, provided by the Heavy Blinkers and several other local bands.