Citizen Strange

Hey Popped Culture fanatics, it’s the shadow behind Jeremy guest blogging here. Yep, his wife Gill. I’m no pop culture expert, but I’m learning, and I can call myself a film fest veteran since this is our 10th year attending. So as Jeremy blogged about schmoozing with the celebs, I saw Citizen Duane.

Director Michael Mabbott, who brought the faux rock star story The Life and Times of Guy Terrifico to Toronto’s film festival last year, came back this year with his second feature film Citizen Duane.

Mabbott says he sees some similarities between the characters of Guy Terrifico and Duane Balfour, the ambitious teen who is Citizen Duane.

“They’re both guys with good intentions,” he said after the film, but they both go about their goals in a bit of a twisted, warped way and manage to mess things up.

One of the writers (either Robert DeLeskie or Jonathan Sobol) says the story was inspired by his “odd political family from Niagara Region,” which might explain why it was shot in Hamilton, Ont.

Citizen Duane is a story about Duane Balfour, a dweeb of a high school student who is always trying to get one up on the popular, ruling class _ namely Chad, the high school president and the grandson of the town’s mayor, who’s now running for her sixth term in office.

Duane is like the human weeble, he gets himself punched and kicked around the block and regardless, he bounces back, no matter how hopeless the situation. It’s like that part of Duane’s brain that tells him he’s nuts and is just going to get smucked again is gone – or at least malfunctioning.

But Duane’s desire to fight the political machine is in his genes. Throughout the film there are hints that Duane is following in his father’s misguided footsteps, to the chagrin of his widowed mother, played by Alberta Watson.

After failing yet again to win the high school presidency away from his nemesis Chad, Duane decides to set his sights higher – as recommended by his favourite teacher, played by Vivica A. Fox – and run for mayor, trying to unseat the longtime incumbent, the matriarch of the Milton family.

Duane, played by Toronto-born actor Douglas Smith, does a fabulous job of wavering between a highly intelligent young adult and an idiotic teen. One moment he’s producing a documentary on the unending money and power of the domineering Milton family, raising the question about whether that’s the best thing for his hometown of Ridgeburg. The next moment, he charges across the school parking lot to jump on Chad, who is twice his size, after he loses the presidency; he accidentally sets fire to his girlfriend’s garage after his single gambling-addicted uncle tells him to make “a grand gesture” of his love for her (it included twirling fireworks); and nearly kills himself by barrelling down a hill on his suped-up bike – with all sorts of torture-type metal objects attached – to cause maximum damage to Chad’s SUV.

Duane’s ability to bounce back takes a beating though as the campaign mud gets slung and the well-known incident with Duane’s father gets brought up. In the end, the kid has learned a few things, that it’s hard to fight the fight, you aren’t likely to win, but still it’s worth it in the end. And you don’t always get the girl.

Star sighting: OK, I don’t know who the starlet was, but she was getting all dolled up in the dingy bathroom at Ryerson University just before the first screening of Borat on Thursday. She’d obviously just flown in to Toronto. Her small suitcase and Chanel dress were in a corner, a pair of stylish jeans and high-heeled brown suede boots were piled next to them. Her male makeup artist took up a corner of the bathroom and dressed up her face, slathering on the eye shadow and mascara, and fluffed her long tawny brown hair. She’d obviously shed her airplane clothes and jumped into something fresh, and she was wearing a slinky sleeveless silver top, tight blue jeans and strappy high-heeled sandals. Her manager or whatever kept coming in to grab her stuff and say “you look fantastic babe!”


  1. Thanks for that review. I've been wanting to see The Life and Times of Guy Terrifico and haven't gotten around to it yet. Anyhow, here in the States it sometimes seems as if we never hear much about Canadian films or filmmakers unless it is Atom Egoyan or David Cronenberg!

  2. That's often the case here in Canada too, except around the film fest. It's hard to get people out to Canadian films or for them to get much theatre distribution in the first place. But keep your eyes out for them - they are worth you time.