By: Addison Wylie
Big News from Grand Rock is a petite Canadian comedy with petite laughs about a petite town where nothing really happens.
Grand Rock’s friendly and carefree community is always seen smiling and wishing healthy salutations to each other. While this may be nice for people living here, it’s dull for those who work for the local newspaper. They have nothing significant to report on. Leonard Crane, a local try-hard journalist, tries to spark some sort of inspiration in his town, but as the paper heads towards a pitiful demise, he’s reaching more than ever.
In order to regain interest from his audience and fill the front page of the Grand Rock Weekly Ledger, Crane finds potential in forgotten films. He writes what he watches, and covers up his tracks with a delightful sheen which all-too-easily persuades his dim readers. He feels like a despicable hypocrite, but his decision keeps himself and everyone around him happy.
Daniel Perlmutter’s premise for his feature film is simple, but carries the film well; at least, for the first bit or so. It’s a cheesy underdog story featuring polite attempts to make the audience laugh, and the merry trustworthiness amongst the community will ring true with many who have served time in a town like Grand Rock.
The familiar cast has been plucked from the same pool that filled out other Canadian indies such as Young People F*cking and Sex After Kids, so the actors don’t have to work too hard to find a catchy rhythm with each other. It’s also fantastic to see a filmmaker give comedian Ennis Esmer a chance to carry a film in a leading role. He’s the ideal choice for Leonard’s humble yet desperate personality.
The innocence can only sustain a portion of the movie, however. Perlmutter, showing sharp knowledge, catches on and realizes he must elaborate in order to raise the stakes. It’s unfortunate he expands his film in the wrong direction.
To add an increased sense of drama, Leonard “reports” on an intense plot in a thriller, and ends up inflicting fear in Grand Rock. New questions and speculations arise as Leonard adds on to his tall tale. Personally, this is where I felt Big News from Grand Rock took a dive.
I was enjoying the film’s small scale. As Leonard’s lies grow and grow, the filmmaker/screenwriter expects us to suspend our disbelief to a ridiculous degree. The amusing dim bulbs in Grand Rock are now represented as thickheaded dunces, and that innocence devolves into stupidity. I had a very hard time believing that this hunky-dory community could invest so much faith into obvious, laboured escapism. A film’s story can be silly, but it still has to hold some logic.
As for the formally funny cast, Esmer tries to stay afloat amidst the overcooked wild goose chases. Because he’s still getting his feet wet as a leading male, he buckles under the unreasonable lengths. It’s also frustrating to see talent like Peter Keleghan, Art Hindle, and Gordon Pinsent play characters with brains that seem to shrink by the minute. Pinsent especially seems lost as he wanders in and out of the movie, adding an expected kooky yet warm vibe to his supposedly endearing role.
As you can see, Daniel Perlmutter expects a lot from his audience. However, movie goers can only hang on for so long without plausibility or intelligence – qualities that are absent during the middle and end of this exhausting movie.