'Bad Seeds': Santa Barbara Review

Bad Seeds Still - H 2016
Philippe Bosse

Bad Seeds Still - H 2016

Could break out to become a mainstream hit.

This French-Canadian comedy about a farmer harvesting a large marijuana crop hits some timely buttons.

One of the most purely entertaining movies showcased at this year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival is Bad Seeds, a bittersweet French-Canadian comedy about a marijuana farmer who enlists a couple of confederates to help him harvest a huge crop. At a time when legalization of marijuana remains a hot-button issue, the timely premise could give the picture a boost in the marketplace. An American distributor looking for a more accessible foreign language film should take a chance on this movie, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few studios battling for remake rights, even though remakes of foreign hits have a spotty record. In the meantime, however, the Canadian original is socked home by a top cast and expert direction.

The movie actually begins as the story of Jacques (Alexis Martin), a struggling actor who is being harassed by the mob because of gambling debts. Jacques flees the city and lands in a rural outpost at the home of a reclusive farmer, Simon (Gilles Renaud). Simon has his own debts to a gang of local criminals, but the marijuana he’s raising far from the snooping eyes of authorities could solve his problems, and Jacques sees a way out of his difficulties if he can team up with Simon. They acquire a third partner when a young utility inspector, Francesca (Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez), comes to investigate why Simon’s electricity bill is so high. The two men capture her, but she convinces them that she has something to add to their enterprise, and in fact, she proves to be a pretty tough negotiator as she takes charge of the two men’s operation.

That’s just the beginning of a droll character comedy that takes a number of satisfying twists. Martin wrote the script with director Louis Belanger, and they’ve concocted a skillful mixture of humor, sentiment, and suspense. A few other characters enter this hermetic world, including an unexpected love interest for Francesca and the gangsters who manage to track Jacques to this remote farm. The story includes some macabre, darkly humorous developments, but there’s also considerable warmth in the depiction of the relationships.

The two experienced leads give very adroit performances, but Lussier-Martinez comes close to stealing the movie with her vibrant and sexy turn as the formidable Francesca. Her conversation with Renaud on the proper techniques of cunnilingus is just one of the movie’s delightfully zany riffs. The bucolic winter setting is effectively caught by Belanger and cinematographer Pierre Mignot. Toward the end the film threatens to fall into sentimentality, but it never topples; it remains humane but restrained in its appreciation of a gang of misfits who rescue each other from solitude with the help of some valuable weed.

Cast: Alexis Martin, Gilles Renaud, Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez, Luc Picard, Patrick Hivon.

Director: Louis Belanger.

Screenwriters: Louis Belanger, Alexis Martin.

Producers: Luc Vandal, Lorraine Dufour.

Director of photography: Pierre Mignot.

Production designer: Andre-Line Beauparlant.

Editor: Claude Palardy.

Music: Guy Belanger.

Sales: Seville International.

No rating, 108 minutes.