October 8, 2014

VIFF 2014: Must See BC – Sonja Bennett Goes to 'Preggoland'

Sonja Bennett | Preggoland | VIFF 2014 Must See BC

Vancouver actress Sonja Bennett (Young People F*cking) has written a charming vehicle to showcase her talents in both comedy and drama. The Trotsky director Jacob Tierney executes Bennett's script (written while she was actually pregnant) quite fluidly, framing moments of absurd comedy and cringing drama with a naturalistic style. Bennett and Tierney take the trope of being a loser in your mid-thirties to ridiculous lengths for moments of both broad humour and affecting sadness.

Bennett's Ruth is a well-meaning degenerate surrounded by old friends who've long since grown up to become moms and grown ups. Through a predictable yet amusing series of accidents and misunderstandings, she pretends to be pregnant to gain the sympathy of those around her. It works so well that she digs herself deeper and deeper into the lie while benefiting from the goodwill of others. Comedian Paul Campbell is likably comical as Ruth's boss/love interest. James Caan is upbeat and endearing as Ruth's grandchild anticipating, well-meaning father. Danny Trejo shows up in a bizarrely offbeat role to round out a charming cast of misfits.

While the story gets a little muddled as the situations get more absurd and unbelievable, all the actors completely invest in the premise and make the film flow while adding further character dimensions and universal themes of responsibility, moving on, and growing up. The film stretches the credibility of Ruth actually convincing everyone she knows and getting away with the lie while doubling down on the ridiculousness in a self-aware, absurdist way.

Tierney really lifts the material with stylish direction and some very pleasing musical cues just as Bennett grounds her somewhat despicable yet sympathetic character through moments of genuine human emotion. Her interactions with the other fairly well-rounded characters feel authentic and lived in the moment despite several ludicrous story beats in a row. Ruth seems to drowning in her bed of lies at every corner in spite of her remorse as we see her struggle to solve any inconsistencies or misunderstandings.

Preggoland is a very appealing film about society's obsession with pregnancy and coming of age well into adulthood. Bennett and Tierney have constructed a story full of energy and moments of true reflection packaged within an amusing but silly concept to maximize the most amount of comedy possible. They milk the premise for all its worth and balance humour and emotion sublimely.

Preggoland screened at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival as a part of the Must See BC series (and won the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Feature Film Award).

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