Wilby Wonderful (2004)

I was up in the projection room, working a tech shift at aGLIFF while this film was running. The projection room isn’t exactly the best place to watch a movie, but I was able to catch the last half of it in the theater itself.

The pun in the title should give an indication about this film’s story. (Will be wonderful? Get it?)

The town newspaper on the island of Wilby is about to publish an article naming “deviants” who have sex in the woods. To some, there’s a “cancer” in the town that has to be eradicated. But Wilby’s residents are too caught up in their own dramas to pay much attention.

Ambitious real estate agent Carol (Sandra Oh) can’t admit to herself her marriage to sherrif Buddy (the really hot Paul Gross) is on the rocks. Buddy is messing around with Sandra (Rebecca Jenkins), who returns to Wilby after many years away. Sandra’s teenage daughter, Emily (Ellen Page), is exploring her first love, but Sandra wants to make sure Emily doesn’t make the same mistakes she did. And then there’s Dan Jarvis (Paul Allodi), a man who can’t seem to find the right opportunity to end his life.

When all the dots between the stories get connected, the movie finds its footing, and a lot of its heart. Until then, it’s unclear why we should care about any of these characters. Of course, I could barely hear the film in the projection room, so if I ever watch it again, I may have a different opinion.

Even though it takes a while to become invested in the characters, Wilby Wonderful does manage to extract comedy from seemingly un-comic situations.

Carol’s Freudian rant to painter Duck McDonald (Callum Keith Rennie) demonstrates why Sandra Oh is one of the fastest rising stars in film and TV. Although Dan is serious about committing suicide, every thwart is a funny turn. When he finally makes progress, Carol has to contend with the results, and the scene is shot in a way that makes terrific use of off-screen action.

I liked the last half of Wilby Wonderful, and I can’t honestly give an opinion on the first half till I see it in prime viewing conditions.

I suspect, however, that the film isn’t totally perfect, and the time it takes for all the individual stories to come together may try some viewers’ patience.

Still, Wilby Wonderful ends up being a pleasant movie, regardless of how it starts, and if you get a chance to see it, it won’t be a waste of time.