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On Their Knees (2001)

by on 2013/04/03

On Their Knees (2001)

“I don’t think you want in on this.”

* *

Early on, I was justifiably concerned about Weirdsville. You may recall I feared it would turn out like Weekend at Bernie’s in Ontario. Well, fortunately, I dodged a bullet there, though I wasn’t as lucky with this “comedy” On Their Knees.

A comedy only in the sense that the protagonists triumph despite their flaws, it’s more a tasteless drama, with an oft-referenced decomposing grandmother, discomfort with homosexuality, so-called “gimp” and “cunt” characters, and self-described “coloured” folk who subsist on watermelon, summer greens, and barbecue.

Yes, really.

I actually suspect the filmmaker’s heart is seeking – if not quite in – the right place, but the end result is rife with cliche and misguided attempts at maturity.

Writer/director Anais Granofsky (Degrassi’s Lucy Fernandez, also an aspiring filmmaker) co-stars as Wilhelmina “Willie” Walker. Her half-sister, Maureen “Mo” Walker, is played by Ingrid Veninger (The Gate). The two estranged siblings are united by the death of the grandmother who raised them. They steal her corpse and take it on a trip along Highway 61, hoping to return it to their ancestral family estate.

The story is told in part through old letters read aloud by singer Salome Bey. Other big names and familiar faces supply a sequence of strong-but-small appearances, including The Dead Zone’s Jackie Burroughs, Whale Music’s Maury Chaykin, Hard Core Logo’s Julian Richings, and The Boondock Saints’ Carlo Rota. Each appears in a single scene, some for mere seconds.

Their involvement surely speaks to the good will of Granofsky, more so than a grand production to be a part of. In fact, we may need to redefine our idea of “indie” for this piece. Let’s assume the following were a function of inept video mastering: poor contrast, high noise, a cropped aspect ratio, interlacing, and lack of subtitling. These issues aside, we are left with inconsistent lighting (even within individual scenes), excessive close-ups, shaky cameras, and the mystifying use of video footage to join uncovered angles in a diner, a motel, a truck, and a filling station.

In fact, there were just three things I appreciated. The acting I’ve alluded to, which ties in to the second thing, a handful of isolated moments of entertainment. The third is the range and quality of the music, from a Tangerine-Dream-like chase motif to the twang of Neko Case. The soundtrack includes the Cash Brothers, Sarah Harmer, Molly Johnson, the New Pornographers, Oh Susanna, and the Weakerthans. It’s a treasure trove of music for the CanCon aficionado, but one which nonetheless fails to enliven the movie overall.

If I hadn’t already seen One Week, this experience might have convinced me the Great Canadian Road Trip is wasted on film. And while I might have been wrong, there’s little in On Their Knees to prove otherwise. As much as I’d like to give an underdog effort a recommendation, I don’t accept “low budget” should mean “inconsistent, offensive, and trite”.

* *

Rated 14A

76 minutes

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