Jul. 23, 2008 - Issue #666: 666: The Devil You Know
Film Capsules - Just Buried
Written & directed by Chaz Thorne
Starring Jay Baruchel, Rose Byrne, Graham Greene
A grim and deadly comedy, Just Buried is the eastern Canadian answer to—or rather attempt at—Fargo. Jay Baruchel, with his constantly pained and nerdy expressions, plays Oliver Zinck, a grocery clerk travelling to an unfamiliar, small Nova Scotia town with his pastor brother Rollie (Jeremy Akerman, former Nova Scotia New Democratic Party leader) for his estranged father’s funeral. Their dad owned the town’s only funeral home, and he’s the only business it’s had in a year. Before his death, he videotaped a Wheel of Fortune-styled inheritance give-away, and as a result, Oliver inherits the funeral home.
At first, he’s going to sell the funeral home. Then he meets the beautiful mortician, Roberta, played by Australian actress Rose Byrne—easily the best part of this movie. While the other actors have the tendency to be over-the-top and self-consciously funny, Byrne plays the deliciously wicked character naturally. Whenever the camera is on and she’s in front of it, all eyes gravitate towards her.
Although she is dating the constable (a subplot so unharnessed that it has to be confirmed minutes before the end credits), Roberta and Oliver start a love affair that is based on attraction, danger and murder. The only way to preserve the funeral home and their relationship is to feed the business and lust by killing off the village douchebags, and then capitalize on their funeral services.
Director Chaz Thorne started as a bit actor (see IMDb credits: Poker Buddy, Canadian Soldier #2, Asbestos Auditorium Striker) and somehow his career metamorphosed into producer, director and writer. As the first two, Thorne proves himself capable of hiring talented actors (despite Baruchel’s sore performance, he’s still talented) to get in front of meticulously kept sets with subtle details, and behind a lens that has the eye of a sharp photographer. But as a writer, Thorne’s script makes many first-draft mistakes.
Although the entire premise is hyperbole, the characters seem to be in on it. Often when they speak, it’s as if they’re in a comic book or sketch comedy bit, with puns definitely intended. “You screwed my dad!” says one character to the other. “To death,” the other responds. Not only is this heavy beat a wild-card, it’s cheesy exposition deflates the scenario.
Just Buried is a good concept that’s unaware of it’s potential. It rarely explores the dark comedy at its fingertips in any way unique, but, instead, settles for masturbation gags. The idea of a funeral home staying in business because of self-contained murders is brilliant, but Thorne’s script—waffling around and tacking on twist endings that have no set-up—waters it down. It is as predictable as it is funny. As safe as it is gruesome. As cliché as it is creative. V
2Film Capsules - Just Buried
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