Two Frogs In The West

Two Frogs In The West

*

Reviewed by: Robert Munro

Two Frogs In The West is director/writer Dany Papineau’s first feature length film, one in which he also plays the lead male role. It tells the story of Marie (Mirianne Brulé), a young woman from Quebec who, in order to broaden her horizons and speak better English, abandons her studies and heads west toward Canada’s Pacific coast.

This is a ‘young person finding themselves’ film. We know it’s a ‘young person finding themselves’ film because within a minute of it opening her old man is yelling bloody murder at her and telling her she’s not welcome back home if she quits University. He tells her she’s ‘ordinary’ just like life is ‘ordinary’ and they (her parents) are ‘ordinary’.

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We also know it’s a ‘young person finding themselves film’ because she gets stoned a lot and has some experimental lesbian sex. Of course, once on the road she realises it’s a big bad world. Her English is rubbish and not many folk speak French. She gets picked up by the fuzz for hitch-hiking. She can’t pay for a room at the inn because furious Daddy has cancelled her credit card. She then loses all her possessions in her pathetic attempts to get a job.

Things can get no worse right? Well, right. Cue handsome, compassionate, understanding, French speaking, snowboarding hunk Jean-Francois, (Dany Papineau) who helps her with a place to stay and a job of-sorts. The film then rattles on with a series of predictable, boring and unimaginative plot developments that are as insipid as the ones already described.

It’s clearly an earnest and (probably) autobiographical effort from Papineau, but there’s no refuge to be found amongst such details as the film blunders on for what seems like an eternity. The dialogue is so contrived and unbelievably delivered that as the film develops it becomes a genuinely uncomfortable watch for all the wrong reasons. Characters say things like: “I knew I was gay when I was having loads of threesomes with my best friend in high school and I realised I was more attracted to him than the girls”. There is not a trace of irony or self-awareness in how ridiculous this all becomes.

Occasionally we are brought a diary voice-over delivered by protagonist Marie over tourist board shoots of snowy Canada with big trees and stuff. But even here the there is no escape from the self-important, pretentious babble of Papineau. She says all the kind of things he seems to think young people should think about their desire to travel and escape the confines of the world created for them by their parents and their society.

It's like a bad episode of The OC or Gossip Girl or whatever other American teen/young-adult beautiful wealthy people 'dramas' there are. Yet it doesn't even have the decadent 'we-know-this-is-nonsense' of those things, which would seem to be the appeal. The characters are mind-crushingly annoying and superficial. This isn't a slight at the acting performances - Mirianne Brulé is perfectly alright in the lead role - but there is nothing they can do to elevate a script seemingly written with Alphabetti Spaghetti and a hammer.

It’s nothing short of bewildering to think that this film believes it has something new or interesting to say in this subject department – one which has been done to death (and infinitely better) on screen and in print. The film has none of the generational anger of something like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. None of the half- arsed ambivalence of On The Road. And none of the delirious, nihilistic escapism of Easy Riders. It has all the subtlety and insight of Cliff Richard belting one out for the Christmas number one spot.

Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2011
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Two Frogs In The West packshot
Marie Deschamps, a 20 year old French-Canadian girl, quits college to go travel and learn English in Western Canada.
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French 2011

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