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November 4, 2005

Show me what you want

A hostage and her captors dance with desire
in this taut but relaxed drama

For a nation that is reluctant to involve itself in the affairs of others, a mild-mannered country that tries not to offend, Canadians are sure fond of invading the United States.

Musically, k.d. lang was one of the biggest things to happen to LGBT music in the U.S. since, well, ever. In terms of literature, Arsenal Pulp Press kicks some major queer booty. Cinematically, Bruce LaBruce and Noam Gonick make saucy films that all the alternative gay boys love.

Until now, however, just about the only film for women to come out of the Great White North was I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, one of the best lesbian films ever made. It was funny, it was witty, it was just plain good.

Now, however, comes a similarly intimate, but far darker film from the wilds of Canada.

Okay, not the wilds. It’s set in Toronto and at a cabin nearby. With a cast of six, half of whom appear for five minutes or less, Show Me is a close-cropped suspense film, demonstrating the skill and ingenuity that comes from working outside the Hollywood machine.

The feature film debut of director Cassandra Nicolau, whose 2002 short Interviews With My Next Girlfriend made waves at film festivals across the continent, Show Me grew out of a desire to make a funny film about being stuck in a traffic jam.

“Then things got a little less funny,” she notes. “Well, maybe a lot less funny.”

The part of the original idea that remained was Sarah (Michelle Nolden), a yuppie stuck in traffic, trying to get out of Toronto to her cabin in the woods to celebrate her tenth anniversary with Sam.

Sam, however, will be delayed with fighting off a hostile takeover, and doesn’t know when the weekend will begin.

When a window-washing teen starts to work on her windshield, Sarah starts her wipers, breaking the girl’s squeegee. Her conscience gets the best of her and she offers the youth some money to replace the tool of her trade.

But Jenna, the washer (Katharine Isabelle), takes the opportunity to hop in Sarah’s car, along with Jackson (Kett Turton), and the young duo take the yuppie hostage. They tie her up when they get to the cabin.

As the next few days unfold and more information is revealed about each member of the trio, power and loyalties shift back and forth until each person snaps, and one of them will not make it back from the edge.

The publicist for the film told me that there was a “gay twist.” It’s fairly easy to spot from the beginning, since Sarah always refers to her spouse as Sam, never as “him.” Yes, the yuppie is lesbian.

When Jenna finds out, however, she continues referring to Sam as a male, bemoaning absent husbands while staring intently at her erstwhile captive. What is going on in her mind?

And what, exactly, is the relationship between Jenna and Jackson?

Nicolau’s script is taut, yet somehow relaxed. Since her film isn’t a Hollywood potboiler, she doesn’t need to get the audience from point A to point B at breakneck speed to get in as many A-list cameos as possible.

While the mass market may not readily recognize Nolden, Isabelle and Turton’s names, Jenna and Jackson are played by two indie-film heavyweights, especially considering their youth.

Katharine Isabelle was the star of 2000’s Ginger Snaps and its sequels, playing a teenage girl who becomes a werewolf in a brilliant metaphor for puberty.

Kett Turton starred in Todd Stephens’ Gypsy 83 a year later, playing the gay Sandusky goth boy who makes a pilgrimage to New York City’s Night of 1,000 Stevies with his best friend.

“In Show Me, Sarah, Jenna and Jackson all explore desire and sexuality and feelings that cross boundaries,” Nicolau said. “They’re each driven by an incredible, inarticulate longing--one that mutates into misdirected or unexpected desire.”

But, going back to the title, show me what?

“Show me the way out. Show me who you really are. Show me who I could be. Show me what I can do. Show me the money. Show me how to break free,” Nicolau explains. “Show me what you want . . . if you know what you want.”

And, proving once and for all that being outside of Hollywood means you don’t have to obey any rules whatsoever, Show Me makes its U.S. theatrical debut on November 4 at the Cobblestone 20 Theater, 5500 Cobblestone Road in Elyria, just west of Cleveland.

Why hold a film premiere in Elyria, one might ask?

Because they can.

For more information, call the theater at 440-9343355 or go to the film’s web site,


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