Moving through the art world of young-adult Torontonians, O, Brazen Age ends up as scenes in search of a movie. What could have been a tone poem about melancholia-tinged memories and desires slips too often into earnest talkiness.
The opening section, “O, Wonder,” sees actor Jack (Joe Perry) and photographer Sam (Benjamin Carson), travelling back through Quebec to Toronto, while giving pregnant Charlie (Lauren Saarimaki) a ride to a convent in Ontario. There’s some dreamy musing about low and high culture (tchotchkes and curios, salvation and miracles) but images of yard sales and dashboard trinkets, roadside burger joints and motels are overwhelmed by some purple prose: “If the experience of a human life could shine with such brilliance, collected, twinkling before our eyes, sublime, serene, a constellation, a life, then there would be no need for this story.”
Jack says Charlie’s “the real thing,” and later, “She was so real about it,” but there’s usually a sealed-off, hyper-art-film delusion to the dialogue. The words can seem so precious and scripted, it’s as if they’re encased in glass speech bubbles. One overlong monologue—reminiscing about a relationship—that overwhelms its images is a story read by artist Allan, a pink sweater draped over his shoulders, to a friend in a laundromat.
The self-conscious artiness continues. Sam asks an old flame at a café, “So your [phone] message was sweet whimsy?” A wife actually tells her husband (at a gallery opening), “You get to fuck me every night.” Some rough-housing in the streets is supposed to be suddenly fraught with menace, but comes off as an oddly over-dramatic setpiece—many scenes are stagey.
There is a surreal Halloween sequence, jagged and near-hallucinatory, that has its moments; the Big Chill-like finale nicely teeters on the edge of one friend’s envy-filled obsession and bitterness. But too often this film’s potential sputters out, squelched by character after character trying to talk artfully. If O, Brazen Age had pushed its characters to be more than mouthpieces for poetic-prose, and if its sifting through collections of recollections had been image-lit, not word-heavy—well, we can only wonder.
O, Brazen Age
Directed by Alexander Carson
Sun., Apr. 2 (7 pm)