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45 rpm (2008)

by on 2013/02/06

45 rpm (2008)

“I don’t need to go that far. I just need to go.”

* * * * *

When their music teacher leaves Goose Lake for a week to visit Peace River, Parry (Jordan Gavaris) and “Luke” (Justine Banszky) borrow the school’s reel-to-reel tape deck. They want to record, slow down, and listen to thirty seconds of audio. If they can identify the songs comprising a sound collage, they might win a trip to New York City and leave their small town behind.

Soon after seeing it, I skyped Gru in Europe, saying I’d found a perfect film for her. 45 rpm is an understated revelation and the flipside of FUBAR. I absolutely loved it.

It’s less about music than I expected, except as a means to an end, a way to bring comfort and direction, an escape from limbo or hell.

Set in small town Canada, in the year 1960, Parry and Luke are united by being outcasts. The former’s a girlish boy, and the latter a boyish girl, raised by an elder Cree (August Schellenberg) and a neglectful alcoholic (So I Married an Axe Murderer’s Amanda Plummer) respectively.

Together, they bear the slings and arrows of various frustrated townsfolk, enduring the trials of a blended family, and a cop (Xchange’s Kim Coates) who does little to help them. Not everyone is sinister, however. A transfer student (MacKenzie Porter) and her father (Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen, against type) offer help in their own way, another kind of hope.

Whether it was intended or not – I’d have to rewatch it and see – I didn’t immediately realize Luke was a girl. This assumption led me down some blind alleys concerning Parry and Plummer’s mother, but once it came clear, it felt like a sort of reward, a sudden shock appropriate to the story.

On the other hand, I had the opposite feelings about the New York DJ (Terry David Mulligan). With all due respect to Mulligan – whom I grew up seeing on MuchMusic – the only weakness was the decision to show us the big city. If our experience was limited to what the kids heard on the radio, it would have been more immersive and made us vicariously desperate.

That misstep aside, I couldn’t find any other real flaws. It’s a triumph of vintage period production. For a low-key character drama, incredible attention was paid to detail: the vehicles, appliances, props, packaging, advertising and so on. Our modern expectations are further challenged by the acceptance of children hunting, driving unlicensed, and leaving home in their teens. Not to mention the era’s conventional Cold War spectres, like Them Nukular Commonists.

45 rpm is not a film for the blockbuster set, those who need immanent justice served, or demand a happy Hollywood ending. It may not lack for confusion and angst, with its have-nots, unrequited crushes, intolerance, and suffocation, but it’s also an experience which could actually change a viewer’s life for the better. It’s achingly painful at times, yet it never abandons hope.

Does that all sound a bit too much like faint praise?

Okay then, it’s a rural Canadian Some Kind of Wonderful . . . only better.

Happy now? Ah, just go and see it.

* * * * *

Trailer (offsite):

Rated PG

91 minutes

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