‘Suck It Up’: Film Review | Slamdance 2017

Courtesy of Sundance
Good for a few laughs.

Jordan Canning’s Canadian feature debuted out of competition at the Park City festival.

A buddy-comedy wrapped in a British Columbia road trip, Suck It Up figures out how to find the humor in emotionally distressing situations that might elude any less determined characters than the film’s two protagonists. Gently amusing while avoiding needless sentimentality, Jordan Canning’s deft feature could find a limited following on the art house circuit or any number of streaming services.

Still distraught over the recent death of her beloved brother Garrett from cancer, Ronnie (Grace Glowicki) goes on an epic bender, leading to a random lawnmower accident that nearly puts her in the hospital. Following a call from Ronnie’s mother Dina (Nancy Kerr), her estranged BFF (and Garrett’s ex-girlfriend) Faye (Erin Carter) decides to take drastic measures after an unsuccessful attempt to intervene. Dragging an unconscious Ronnie into Garrett’s powder-blue Mustang convertible, she heads for the lakeside vacation home owned by Ronnie’s family to help her dry out. After some initial friction occasioned by Faye’s bossy tendencies and Ronnie’s screw-it-all attitude, they settle into an unhurried summertime rhythm, but their tendency to constantly challenge one another means that things won’t remain peaceful for very long. 

Their haphazard search for weed leads them to Alex (Toby Marks), one of Ronnie’s seasonal acquaintances, but she’s out of the business and sends them to Granville (Daniel Beirne). Although he’s a pot grower, he hasn’t harvested yet, so Alex arranges a meeting with townie stoner Shamus (Blake Gordey), who’s happy to oblige with a baggie. At Ronnie’s urging to loosen up a bit, Faye starts hanging out with Granville, but their initial romantic efforts fizzle when she develops sudden intimacy-related panic attacks. By now, Faye is also getting curious about Alex, who she can’t seem to place in Ronnie’s circle of friends. Then a chance revelation leads to a blow-up with Ronnie that may undo all of their recent bonding if the women can’t find a way to reconcile.

Canning’s two-hander has the advantage of a couple of lively leads, although Julia Hoff’s script has the rather unwieldy requirement of playing around Ronnie’s absent brother Garrett, who never appears in the film. Each of the women endures his absence in her own way, although on balance, Ronnie is more apt to drag Faye down to her level, which makes for a more comedic approach as they attempt to self-medicate themselves with booze and pot.

Carter evidences the most distinct arc as Faye reacts to successive, surprising revelations about the reasons behind Garrett’s move to break things off with her after his cancer diagnosis. As she comes to understand his conflicted decision, Faye's attitude toward Ronnie visibly evolves. Glowicki’s Ronnie remains more static, inclined to wallow in her own self-pity and substance abuse without any significant shift in perspective until the final scenes.

Directing her second feature, Canning sticks to the basics, relying primarily on handheld shots and unobtrusive lighting techniques. Attractive British Columbia mountain scenery provides a tantalizing backdrop, but the action is primarily limited to the more generic lakeside location.

Production company: Shut Up & Colour Pictures
Cast: Erin Carter, Grace Glowicki, Daniel Beirne, Toby Marks, Nancy Kerr, Michael Rowe, Blake Gordey
Director: Jordan Canning
Screenwriter: Julia Hoff
Producers: Marc Tetreault, Jason Levangie
Director of photography: Guy Godfree
Production designer: Sarah Hayden Roy
Costume designer:  Angela Bateman
Editor: Simone Smith
Music: Ben Fox
Venue: Slamdance Film Festival (Beyond)

99 minutes