It’s a terrible thing to say, but I can’t figure out why Rose Byrne did this movie. Not to knock it with a generalization, but Just Buried‘s a Canadian production. Even though Jay Baruchel’s on the rise, besides her, everyone in the principal cast is Canadian. For a while, I thought I had it figured out–why Byrne would do the film. For the first half, it’s a black comedy about she and Baruchel accidentally killing people and their funeral home profiting. Her character’s interesting, she and Baruchel have chemistry, the script still seems like it might develop somewhere. The script’s the most disappointing thing about Just Buried–it’s so full of potential and Thorne wastes all of it. Instead of doing a peculiar black comedy–the film’s still a black comedy in the end, but it’s a cheap farce of one, a TV movie black comedy, the kind USA would do in the mid-1990s after To Die For. It goes from being a pleasant surprise to a dismal failure, with Byrne’s presence somehow being its greatest setback. Seeing her–she’s excellent throughout, even in the end–essaying the crappy parts of the script… it’s depressing. It maddens.
Here’s what Thorne wastes. There aren’t really any spoilers, but I need to get the list down. He wastes a loser moving from a city where he flounders to a small town where he prospers. He wastes a son getting it on with his father’s trophy widow. He wastes a priest who drinks, plays poker and eyeballs girls. I’m trying to think of what else, but maybe I don’t want to remember it. Thorne flushes away all that potential, instead using each of them for a couple or three jokes. Instead of embracing what makes Just Buried unique, he goes with what makes it common. He turns more than the film into a farce, he turns the viewer’s experience into one as well.
Oh, I just remembered what I forgot (and, yes, it does depress me to recall). Just Buried has some of the finest people hanging out and drinking scenes I think I’ve ever seen on film. Baruchel and Byrne go on a couple of late night benders and Thorne beautifully captures the reality of it, each person’s relative solitude. These scenes happen in the first half, when Just Buried still has a bunch of potential.
Thorne obviously thinks he’s pretty witty with the conclusion, because he’s put clues in the film throughout. Sure, they require people not being able to hear what people whisper to other people, no matter how close they are, but whatever. Once the inevitable conclusion becomes clear–Thorne’s camera sits calmly for too long, like he forgot what they were shooting and just kept rolling–Just Buried just gets boring. Thorne has abandoned his characters, leaving the actors to drown.
Byrne’s great. Graham Greene’s pretty good. Baruchel’s very good in the first half, with his big transition not coming through so well. Sergio Di Zio is hilarious as the priest brother and Reagan Pasternak is funny as the stepmother. Nigel Bennett, Thomas Gibson and Brian Downey all appear to be sleepwalking through their performances, letting their costumes (two cops and an ex-clown) do the heavy lifting.
After Just Buried leapt off its cliff, I kept hoping Thorne knew what he was doing. He apparently does not.
Written and directed by Chaz Thorne; director of photography, Christopher Porter; edited by Christopher Cooper; music by Darren Fung and Scott Loane; production designer, William Fleming; produced by Nigel Bennett, Pen Densham, Bill Niven, Thorne and John Watson; released by Seville Pictures.
Starring Rose Byrne (Roberta Knickel), Jay Baruchel (Oliver Whynacht), Graham Greene (Henry Sanipass), Nigel Bennett (Chief Knickle), Sergio Di Zio (Jackie Whynacht), Reagan Pasternak (Luanne), Thomas Gibson (Charlie Richmond), Brian Downey (Pickles), Slavko Negulic (Armin Imholz), Jeremy Akerman (Rollie Whynacht) and Christopher Shore (Wayne Snarr).