Sorry For Your Loss
Justin Bartha, Inbar Lavi, Lolita Davidovich, Bruce Greenwood
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…pithy, inventive and bravely politically incorrect…
Debut Canadian writer/director Collin Friesen made his short film debut in 2003 with a piece entitled Farm Sluts. His second short, Feather Weights, was about a man trying to kick-start a women’s pillow fighting league. Not surprisingly, Friesen’s first feature, Sorry For Your Loss, is not a middle of the road exercise in political correctness and Hollywood-friendly gags. It is, however, very, very funny, and will make you wince with should-I-be-giggling-at-this laughter every few minutes. The script zings and pings relentlessly, and the cast of talented not-quite-stars rise to the occasion with aplomb, executing the jokes with perfectly timed skill and an endearing lack of vanity.
Ken Wall (The Hangover’s Justin Bartha) is in the throes of a job that he hates, financial difficulties, an edgy relationship, and early fatherhood. Though questioning his levels of parental involvement, his wife Lori (Inbar Lavi) encourages the reluctant Ken to attend the funeral of his distant, errant father. Upon his arrival, Ken quickly learns that his father was not only scuzzier and more unpleasant than he initially thought, but that he has also left an odd condition in his will: if Ken can sprinkle his ashes in the middle of the enormous playing field of his favourite sports team within two days, he’ll get $200,000. If he can’t do it, the money will instead go to constructing a sauna at his father’s beloved golf club. Thus begins an unlikely, bumpy, and not exactly hectically paced race against time to make it happen.
It might sound like an obvious, gimmicky comedy about a troubled father-son relationship that is posthumously redeemed (and there is a little bit of that), but Collin Friesen gleefully subverts those expectations at every turn. Ken’s awful father gets shadier with each new revelation, while Ken’s own attitude to parenthood is alarmingly indifferent. The intelligent and tonally spot-on script, however, never allows the characters to become unlikeable. They are messy, morally uncertain and often foul-mouthed, but they’re bitingly real and blackly funny.
All of the performances are excellent (Bartha and Lavi have a genuinely spiky, wholly believable young-husband-and-wife chemistry, while Lolita Davidovich is great fun as Ken’s sexy mum), but the true standout is veteran support player Bruce Greenwood, who is deeply, profoundly, infectiously hilarious as the effortlessly sleazy, horribly inappropriate, and equally charming Jeff Steadman, the stripper-loving best pal of Ken’s late dad. Though he undeniably scores all of the film’s best jokes and most ripping dialogue, the under-celebrated star of Thirteen Days and The Sweet Hereafter delivers it all with a rarely glimpsed, laugh-grabbing flair that would put most of the world’s top comics to shame. It’s a truly masterful performance, and locks right in with the pithy, inventive and bravely politically incorrect comedy of Sorry For Your Loss.