film note: Laurence Anyways

Laurence Anyways
Directed by Xavier Dolan
2h 48m, Canada, 2012

It wasn’t until about a half hour in that I realized that I’d tried to watch this film before. It wasn’t any easier to stick around this time than it had been the first, but I did skip forward to see what happened — I watched the last scene so I now know the origin of the title — and to try to figure out why I found it all so boring.

Other than sometimes feeling like the period set-dressing and production design. along with some odd framing choices, were overwhelming the narrative, I also never felt like I was watching the dramatic unfolding of a life. I felt like I was watching actors being told how to act, doing their best but failing to differentiate between characters, by a director who wanted to mount a moving biography, about a man transitioning into being a woman and trying to hold on to his relationship with a woman, but just couldn’t manage to spark anything to life. And so although the camera got pointed at the mouths moving I never felt a thing. Sometimes that’s easy to explain and sometimes it’s not.

Some of the narrative high points seemed pat, particularly the first day dressing as a woman on the job, getting fired, getting beat up in a bar fight, etc. and the stylistic debris that accumulated around these very familiar maneuvers didn’t help give them any more weight. In particular, it seemed quite glib to depict Laurence’s walk through his school in women’s clothes as a scene from a generic Hollywood teen comedy, complete with leering dudes and dance music on the soundtrack.

Ah well, at least now that I’ve logged this I won’t forget and try to watch it again.

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