Fans of author Douglas Coupland — the man who brought the world Generation X — will find much to enjoy in his first screenplay, and a bit to disappoint them, too. Coupland earned his fame as a cultural zeitgeister in the early 90s by identifying the particular malaise that afflicted 20-somethings as they lumbered unenthusiastically into the workforce, forced to take service industry “McJobs.”
The script, set in his native Vancouver, feels like a bit of a time capsule at first, as the proverbial alienated, sensitive protagonist gets fired and packs up his floppy disks to enter an uncertain future, as if we were watching a prequel to Coupland’s novel Microserfs. From there, Ryan evolves from a self-described “loser” working at the provincial lottery commission to a slimy embezzler in cahoots with Bryce, an alpha-male prick. Never fully comfortable with his new, venal self, Ryan pines for the unencumbered bliss that is suggested to him by Ming, herself a reformed amoralist since leaving Bryce to take care of her elderly grandmother. Even his painfully middle-class parents become pot growers to make extra cash, to his horror. It’s this subplot that tips the balance in favor of absurd tragicomedy, affording the film more leeway than it perhaps deserves.
Paulo Costanzo (Ryan) and Steph Song (Ming) are consistently engaging and likeable, and flow so naturally from one scene to the next that you might not notice how utterly conventional it all is.
But the nuanced cataloguing of a generation’s articulate torpor, so famously rendered on the page, is barely hinted at, relegated to a few slightly self-consciously delivered speeches and musical photo montages. Still, like a character in Coupland’s universe, if I didn’t expect so much, I might have been less disappointed.
Opens April 13 at Landmark Sunshine