Music outshines romance storyline in this hybrid concert film

Intimate friendship between bandmates carries the real poignancy in This Movie is Broken

Bruno (left) has one night and one Broken Social Scene concert to convince the love of his life, Caroline, to not move away to Paris. Courtesy Alliance Films

From the opening scenes of This Movie Is Broken, it’s clear who the real stars are.

The stage has been set – literally – with a crowd roaring for “one more song” from the titular band Broken Social Scene.

Within the next five minutes we’ve been introduced to all of the musicians and been treated to a dynamic performance of “Almost Crimes” (complete with air guitar), while the actual “characters” of the film have yet to make an appearance.

Director Bruce McDonald tries a new spin on the concert film here, taking masses of live footage filmed at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre on July 11, 2009, and twining a last-chance-romance storyline into the expansive living soundtrack.

Bruno (Greg Calderone) wakes up that hot day in July next to Caroline Rush (Georgina Reilly), the girl he’s had a thing for since childhood. Problem is, she’s off to Paris the next morning and all he’s got is one night and one concert to convince her to stay.

Cue broken-hearted ballad from the set list (“Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” fills in nicely), interspersed with a montage of the lovers in their city.

The cameras do assemble a loving tableau of Toronto; from shots of children on bicycles and crowded patios to parks piled high with garbage bags (it’s the summer of the city strike), McDonald builds us a city that feels immersive without being overly romantic.

The most poignant relationship in the movie, however, isn’t the scripted one between Bruno and Caroline; it’s the authentic one within the musical force that is Broken Social Scene in its exuberant entirety.

The story of the band is a real rock show romance. Comprising seven core members, this expansive Canadian collective also draws on an extensive rotating cast of musical friends and lovers including Emily Haines of Metric, Stars’ Amy Millan, Jason Collett and Leslie Feist, among others.

Haines’ nostalgic declaration of “I missed my friends” during a post-song lull captures the feeling of the tremendous Harbourfront footage – these are some talented friends who get together to play music with each other, and we get to watch.

While we’re willing Bruno to say the right thing and win Caroline over, there are moments when the movie feels like it’s getting in the way of the music.

As front man Kevin Drew says, “it pays to have good friends,” and the film would have been more successful focusing on those real relationships than trying to get us interested in another.

Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)

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