Picture Claire (2001)


(director: Bruce McDonald; screenwriter: Semi Chellas; cinematographer: Miroslaw Baszak; editor: Michael Pacek; music: Paul Haslinger; cast: Mickey Rourke (Eddie), Gina Gershon (Lily), Juliette Lewis (Claire), Callum Keith Rennie (Laramie), Kelly Harms (Billy), Camilla Rutherford (Cynthia), Peter Stebbings (Culver), Raoul Bhaneja (Detective Lee), Tracy Wright (Detective Sweeny); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Wendy Grean; DEJ Productions/Serendipity Point Films; 2001/Canada)

“Lacks believability.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald’s “Picture Claire” lacks believability. The neo-noir thriller opens as the French speaking Claire’s (Lewis) Montreal apartment is torched. The troubled lowlife Claire, who never fitted in, was a police informer on a drug ring and someone from that gang did the honors. Without a place to live, Claire heads for Toronto to hookup with photographer Billy Stuart (Harms). He picked her up in a poolroom while visiting, and after a one-night stand invited her to live with him in Toronto.

Lost in the big city and unable to communicate, Claire finds Billy not at home. There’s only a poster advertising the opening of his show tonight. She goes into a nearby donut shop to ask directions, but the foreign lady behind the counter offers no help. She tries to ask one of the customers, but he pushes her away and curses her out saying he’s busy because he got a meeting. It turns out Eddie (Rourke) wasn’t fibbing, as a perplexed Lily (Gershon) enters and tells him she wants her dough. Eddie asks how she got across the border with the stuff and tells her the dough’s in an airport locker. Lily straddles Eddie’s lap and starts kissing him, and then pulls a thin wire out and strangles him to death. She says out loud that the airport discontinued lockers ever since the 1970s.

Waiting outside for Eddie to bring them the promised cut diamonds smuggled in are a nervous buyer and a psychopathic triggerman named Laramie (Rennie). When they see Lily and Claire together leaving the donut shop, they are confused for a moment as they look like doubles.

Claire locates Billy’s gallery showing and is humiliated to find the little snot was sneakily taking photos of her, and his show is all about those intimate looks. Meanwhile an amateurish male and female detective team, get a description of the supposed murderer from the hysterical donut lady. In a case of mistaken identity, she describes Claire. The cops head toward Billy’s apartment and are standing outside ringing the buzzer, but it goes unanswered even though they suspect someone’s home. In the tradition of screwball comedies, Claire is in Billy’s pad to retrieve all the negatives while Billy has brought home his very proper English speaking and self-absorbed girlfriend Cynthia for some lovemaking before the show. Laramie and the other dude are waiting outside in their car looking for Lily, who is coincidentally staying in Eddie’s apartment on the 2nd floor of that very same building.

Claire found her way down from Billy’s 3rd floor balcony to Lily’s pad and stole her purse, which contained the jewels in a photography container. The remainder of the film has the lost and bewildered Claire roaming around the city trying to scratch up enough dough to get back to French speaking Montreal, while the criminals are after the diamonds and the fuzz are after Claire for murder. To show the unease of the two women on-the-run, the director dissolves the scene at the point of a critical melodramatic development by using a split/multi screen. The screen becomes divided into four parts.

The story was weak, the noirish characters were portrayed with a heavy hand, the acting was nothing to write home about, and there seemed no good way to conclude this mess. It has the look of a made for TV film. I think the biggest mistake was killing off Mickey Rourke so soon, his presence could have given this thriller the appearance of the weird it was lacking but seemed to want.