Let’s just put our cards on the table. When it comes to film in this country, we’re not exactly looked upon favourably. I’m not saying every Canadian film is bad but there is a lot of weeding through to get to the gems. At this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival I was hoping to get a look at the best Canada had to offer and, aside from one or two films, I was left a little disappointed and wanting of something to raise the bar a bit.
The one shining piece in Canadian film is definitely the films that come out of Quebec. For years I’ve been astounded by the artful and beautiful French-Canadian movies being made by such directors as Jean Marc Vallee, Denis Villeneuve and Xavier Dolan, all of whom have made the leap to Hollywood filmmaking, Dolan’s debut still to come. One director who has already made that leap as well is Philippe Falardeau, but in a smaller scale. He blew me away with his dark family comedy It’s Not Me, I Swear and made his english language debut last year with the Reese Witherspoon film The Good Lie. This year he teamed up with my favorite French Canadian comedian Patrick Huard for My Internship in Canada.
The film is a political farce that follows Souverain (Irdens Exantus), a Haitian immigrant who dreams of a life in Canadian politics. To facilitate this, he accepts an internship with Steve Guibord, an independent Member of Parliament from northern Quebec. On the day he joins up with Guibord, the politician is embroiled in a fire storm of controversy that is getting completely out of control.
On one end of the spectrum, Canada is voting to decide if they will participate in a war in the Middle East and the Quebec MP is a tie breaking vote, which is completely dividing his constituents. On the other end and to make matters all that much worse, he is also trying to broker a deal between loggers and the local natives over the use of logging roads in their areas. This issue has been a thorn in the side of local towns and businesses, who demand Guibord’s attention right in the middle of the worst possible decision making time for the Quebec leader.
Guibord decides to go on a tour of the townships and talk to the citizens with his wife and millennial-angst-filled daughter in tow, as Souverain follows his every move, optimistic and eager to please. A well versed encyclopedia on Canadian politics, the intern gets a crash course in some pretty out there human relations.
Usually being on board with Falardeau’s work, My Internship in Canada left me a bit cold. Huard is a great comic actor, as he’s demonstrated in films I’ve very much enjoyed like Bon Cop, Bad Cop and the darkly funny Cadavres, but in this film it’s stretched a bit thin. I don’t think this is particularly his fault, as I believe the story itself is stretched a bit thin to get to feature length. It’s a comedy of errors with not enough plot to sustain itself without being pretty repetitive.
On it’s plus side, the cast is generally pretty funny, Huard is loveable in his exasperation as it increases throughout the film. The meeting scene between him and the Prime Minister, a lampooning of Stephen Harper who loves to rock out on the piano or guitar, is really funny in it’s awkwardness.
Unfortunately, the underwritten story ends up dragging this film into monotony, which soured me overall with this extremely light comedy. I wasn’t expecting it to be a fast talking political farce like In The Loop but the film didn’t even get itself into the same conversation of the movie with it’s basic wit. I give this one a two out of five.