Published Jun 02, 2011Good Neighbours is a bad movie. Now, I hate to diss Canadian films, because they're as hard as hell to make and market, but there's no doubt that Neighbours falls flat as a black comedy.
Neighbours takes place in 1995, on the eve of the separatist referendum in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a grungy part of Montreal. The political and geographic backdrop doesn't add anything to a story revolving around three singles living in an apartment building. Louise (Emily Hampshire) is a bored waitress in a Chinese restaurant whose only relationship is with her cat. Her only human friend is Spencer (Scott Speedman), a supposedly sarcastic widower who's confined to a wheelchair. The new guy is naïve, wide-eyed Victor (Jay Baruchel), who's a lovely elementary school teacher looking to find a woman. He goes after Louise in a clumsy, schoolboy fashion. Meanwhile, a string of unsolved homicides in the neighbourhood haunt everyone, but fascinates Louise.
Black comedy should be played razor straight and mock society without trivializing the story's characters; it's a tough genre to pull off. Read the plays of English playwright Joe Orton or watch Happiness (1998) by Todd Solondz to see masterpieces of this form. The central problem with Neighbours is that you don't know what aspect of society it's trying to criticize, nor do you care for the characters. Louise is morbid, Spencer is devious and Victor is, well, Victor ― there's nothing else there. The story twists, particularly in the last third of the film, aren't believable.
Only Gary Farmer, as the detective investigating the murders, offers any wit or dimension. I wish the film were about him. There is darkness in Good Neighbours, true, but it's forced and pointless. It's not enough to save this film. (Alliance)