Directed by John N. Smith
Written by Tim Burns
Starring Jane Curtin, Mary Walsh and Sheila McCarthy
Misguided movies are made all over the globe but Canadian movies have their own special way of going off the rails. The worst are the faux commercial variety, with their blend of bureaucratic agendas, weak scripts, overplaying actors and imported American stars. We end up producing films that don't appear to be for any audiences except those who nod off in front of the cable channel late at night.
American television actress Jane Curtin ( Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun) stars here as a warm and slightly dithery grocery store clerk who gets a chance to win $2-million on a game show. She's saddled with a mellow but perpetually unemployed husband (Peter MacNeill) a strident, obnoxious sister (Mary Walsh) and a lot of friends and neighbours who see her as a potential cash cow.
Curtin was cast, one assumes, more for appeal to foreign distributors, than for her ability to embody a New Brunswick grocery clerk and sister of Mary Walsh. There's a New Brunswick setting because Telefilm Canada has to distribute the wealth to the regions. Finally, Geraldine's Fortune falls into a popular low-budget formula, an often-repeated variation of The Full Monty, of small-town eccentrics with big dreams. For extra points, we have Canadian source material for the script, playwright Michel Tremblay. Geraldine's Fortune is described as having been "loosely adapted" from Tremblay's historically important Quebec play, Les Belles-soeurs, which seems to involve jettisoning everything good and distinctive about the original play.
The movie (previously known as Piggybank Blues or Tough Luck) has changed the setting, the language, neutralized the politics and done nothing to develop the characters' psychology.
In the apparent effort to give the remnants of Tremblay's story some bite, screenwriter Tim Burns ( Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang) and director John N. Smith ( Dangerous Minds, The Boys of St Vincent's) have made a stab at satire. The target? TV games show that exploit human greed.
If the target seems broad, you should see the jokes. Geraldine appears on a show called Bring Home the Bacon. Matt Frewer plays the zany host and the audience members wear pretend pig's snouts and ears. Instead of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's "life line," the guest has "three little piggies" to call for help.
Geraldine's "piggies" include two of her fellow store clerks, that obnoxious sister Rose played by Walsh, and Tina (Sheila McCarthy), a kindly soul who takes care of her elderly mother.
While Geraldine answers trivia questions on the show, family revelations spill out back at home in an interminable round of drunken slapstick, confrontations and reconciliations. The biggest laughs are actually supposed to come from an old woman with dementia in a wheelchair.
Are Canadians tough on their own movies? The answer is yes, and they have a right to be. It's irksome enough to pay for dim and offensive fare at the box office, but doubly so when you pay for it again on your tax bill.