Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lucky Girl (John Fawcett 2001): It's a Long Hard Fall From the Top

Like many Canadian directors, Fawcett has headed some exceptional feature films, but often sees much of his time and creativity dedicated to guest-directing on outstanding Canadian TV shows. This is the even case for some bigger names such as Bruce McDonald (Hardcore Logo, The Tracy Fragments) and Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Adoration). It's one of the unavoidable consequences of the Canadian industry which has long been more adept to television - subsequently some of our best movies are also made for TV.

Hence Lucky Girl A.K.A. My daughter's Secret Life.

Immediately following his great success with Ginger Snaps in 2000 (easily one of the strongest werewolf films ever made), Fawcett directed this dark drama featuring the then up-and-coming Elisha Cuthbert. In it, she plays 17 year old Kaitlin, who in her final year of high school is looking for quick ways to make quick cash as she excitedly plans a trip to Europe with her best friend. As something of a mathematician, when she stumbles upon a knack for cards she is thrilled by the thought of how much money she can make. But it's not long before her luck runs out.

This is not a movie about a card-shark, it aims only to show how easily a young girl can get herself into a whole lot of trouble. Eventually, Kaitlin owes more than she can pay, and a sudden romance with a 22 year old gambling addict only makes things worse. From being jumped in a bathroom, to robbing a house, to being held hostage in another - it's safe to say Kaitlin completely loses control over her life.

Although the film is completely different from Ginger Snaps, Fawcett develops some undeniable thematic links, especially in the depiction of the home. Again we have a "typical" middle-class family featuring the passive father whose relationship with the mother is disconnected, to say the least, and a mother who is delusional about the bond she shares with her daughter. This atmosphere heavily informs how the girls view the world and their place in it. While in Ginger Snaps the girls rebel aggressively against the status quo which they see "caricaturized" at home, here Kaitlin simply has no sense of how to properly connect with people - nor does she understand herself as having any responsibility to do so within the world. She is not a sympathetic character, and yet there is a desire to see things work out for her because despite all of her mistakes it still seems as though the people around her are failing her more than she is failing them. Much of this has to do with the depiction of her parents and their inability to actually parent.

All in all, it is an interesting story with interesting characters, no one is particularly likeable and yet everyone seems to have a side worth getting to know. It is one of the better TV movies I have seen, with an impressive 7 star rating on IMDB. Originally a CTV production, the film is also available on American Netflix.