November 22, 2011
Unlike his contemporaries, chief among them, Atom Egoyan, Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald has never been able to break out internationally with his films. Sure, he’s come close with the likes of Hard Core Logo (1996) and, more recently, Pontypool (2008) but maybe it’s just as well. He makes deeply personal independent films that often retain their Canadian heritage, proudly displaying it as a badge, at times. He is also obsessed with music and musicians with films like Roadkill (1989) and the aforementioned Hard Core Logo, both of which focused on bands reforming. His latest film, Trigger (2010), also focuses on a reunion, this time between two female musicians.
It’s been ten years since Vic (Wright) and Kat (Parker) played together in an alternative rock band. Their last gig ended in a messy breakup that occurred on stage, which McDonald does a nice job of conveying through a montage of images during the opening credits. They have since gone their separate ways and pursued their own careers: Kat is a music advisor for the Lifetime television channel while Vic is still making music. The two women are reuniting for a women in rock benefit show and meet for dinner beforehand. Sure enough, old grudges come to surface in no time: Vic’s drug addiction and Kat’s drinking problem.
Tracy Wright plays a bit of a prickly character that isn’t afraid to speak her mind and from her heart. For Vic, she adopts a bit of a Patti Smith look, complete with disheveled hair and black jacket with jeans. This is in sharp contrast to Molly Parker’s softer, prim and proper look. Kat reeks of a successful West Coast lifestyle. The two actresses have excellent chemistry together and once their characters break the ice created over ten years, we see the familiar shorthand that existed between them re-emerge. Their dinner conversation starts off awkward and then shifts into small talk that has the ring of honesty between two long-time friends. It feels like an actual conversation between two women and not contrived movie dialogue.
It is refreshing to listen to interesting characters talk about their lives in a way that only indie films can do. Trigger is an excellent character-driven drama about how the love for making music reunites two women after several years. Director Bruce McDonald has spent a good chunk of his life around musicians and he knows how they act and talk around each other as well as around non-musicians. He understands that when musicians get on stage, all the personal baggage that makes life messy goes away and it’s all about the music – the synergy that exists while they are performing. He also gets extraordinary performances out of Parker and Wright who dig deep and really create fully realized characters that resemble actual people as opposed to movie creations that don’t resemble anyone we might know.
Also include are brief excerpts from a table reading where we get to see Molly Parker and Tracy Wright going over the screenplay. This is a nice enough extra I suppose but it is way too short to provide any kind of real insight into how doing this translate into the final product.