Published Dec 01, 2002Perfect Pie belongs to the camp of small Canadian movies that are so unabashedly, humourlessly earnest, and so Canadian in their earnestness, they're the cinematic equivalent of getting a toothache from eating too much maple sugar. You know, the kind of movie where characters always say what they mean and mean what they say, and if they don't they guiltily fess up to their misdeeds by the very next scene. It's the kind where characters apologise for being angry when their anger is totally justified, a feature film that would have made a handsome TV movie if it involved some sort of disease or, perhaps, a courtroom trial. Thankfully, Perfect Pie has neither (although it does hint at the ever-so-indelicate prospect of gang rape.) What it does offer is a bittersweet view of a longstanding, long-festering female relationship that is, at times, genuinely touching, if ultimately a little too polite. Just don't expect a large dollop of creamy subtext on the side. Wendy Crewson and Barbara Williams star as the estranged pair. Crewson plays Patsy Willets, an idyllic country wife and mother whose down-home existence is consumed by enough baked goods to rival Loretta Lynn in a 80s Crisco ad. Patsy never left the small Ontario town where they both grew up, but Francesca (Williams) made the decision to flee long ago. When she did, she left behind her identity as the town's resident Carrie White imitator, Marie Beck, and transformed herself into world-renowned opera singer Francesca Prine. Francesca is everything Marie wasn't. She's cosmopolitan, sexually adventurous, pleasant-smelling, and possesses extremely good upper-arm tone. She's also completely self-absorbed. But Patsy remains the same sweet girl she was in high school, when she was Marie's sole girlfriend. She uses colourful Canadian phrases like "Jesus Murphy" and watches all of Francesca's performances on "the PBS." When Francesca rolls back into town after 20-odd years for a benefit concert, Patsy offers up her home and her pastry to Francesca, but quicker than you can say "the turning point!" tensions boil over as the two are reunited. Seamlessly integrated, sentimentally hued flashbacks offset the present day sequences in Perfect Pie. The younger actors, Alison Pill and Rachel McAdam, who portray Marie and Patsy respectively at age 15, do an excellent job of mirroring but not mimicking Williams and Crewson. (For instance, I found both performances of Patsy to be equally and effectively grating.) Stratford vet Tom McCamus (Possible Worlds) shows up briefly as Francesca's not-quite ex-boyfriend. It's all as nicely mounted as a CBC production of La Boheme, and about as challenging as frozen Sara Lee. Actually, Sara Lee is an American company; make that frozen McCain.