Published Jun 01, 2000There should be a lot of excitement about what New Waterford Girl means for Canadian cinema. Not that it's a work of art (it's a good movie, not a great one), but that it's so purely Canadian, in all of the best ways. It's a coming-of-age, gotta-get-outta-this-hick-town type of movie that takes place beneath the overcast skies of the mining town New Waterford, on the shores of Cape Breton Island. Director Allan Moyle, (a guy I had pegged as a talentless fluke who stumbled onto the zeitgeist with Pump up the Volume), is surprisingly adept at creating a gritty, plaid-shirted townie atmosphere that is as rich and believable as the white trash Texas of Boys Don't Cry, and that's no small compliment.
The title character, a brooding 15 year old named Mooney, played by newcomer Liane Balaban, is a goth chick without a cause. The movie takes place in the mid-70s, so Mooney has no Marilyn Manson or Anne Rice novels on which to fixate. She's stuck with the wrong pop culture, in a town where every eight-track is playing something by Chilliwack or April Wine or Foot in Cold Water. When Mooney finds a kindred spirit in "Lou" (Tara Spencer Nairn), the new girl who has just moved in from the Bronx, they cruise the main drag and ogle the local boys. When the main drag ends abruptly after about two blocks, Lou's big city mentality is aghast: "What do we do now? Drive back and pretend that they're different guys?" All of the roles in New Waterford Girl are very well cast, from the severe looking teenage girls with their uniformly jet black hair (they're tougher than most of the guys in town), to Andrew McCarthy as a slacker English teacher, right down to the kid who plays Mooney's perpetually ignored little brother - just watch him quietly steal scenes with his unaffected naturalism. Credit should also be given to the small town savvy script by Nova Scotia native Tricia Fish, and to the resonant cinematography, shot in gloomy blues and grays by Derek Rogers. New Waterford Girl is a comedy of bleakness, where the oppressively dreary skies seem to be mirrored in Mooney's dark, furrowed looks.