La sacrée [The sacred] (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">La sacrée</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">The sacred</strong>] (2011)

(In French, On TV, February 2019) There’s something not quite right in my claiming Montréal-shot movies as “practically local”—after all, my “local” is Ottawa (ish): Specifically, I grew up in a francophone town forty kilometres east of Ottawa. So I started watching La sacrée as a bit of a novelty—it is, after all, the first Franco-Ontarian comedy, shot entirely in Eastern Ontario, using government grants to cover a meagre $1.2M budget. Its dialogues are entirely in colloquial French-Canadian with an Ontarian blend of French peppered with English (played for laughs in one character’s quasi-bilingual speech patterns and then again in a training montage). I was ready to fast-forward through the film just to catch glimpses of familiar sights and homegrown details. To my surprise, I actually started enjoying the film early on—never mind seeing a downtown Ottawa street doubling for Montréal, the initial hook of the film is director Dominic Desjardins’s ease behind the camera. La sacrée looks significantly more expensive than it cost, and the slick mainstream-comedy direction of the film helps get past the initially repellent protagonist. Our so-called hero is nothing more than a professional con artist, projecting airs and seducing a rich heiress while subsisting on nothing more than a ratty apartment and flashy suits. Things start to change once he’s called back from Montréal to his native Ontarian village, where he’s seen as the rich ingrate who refused to help his now-dead parents a few years before. There are complications, and before long he’s using his flimflamming talents to try to revive his hometown through the establishment of a microbrewery in the local church. There’s clearly a familiar city-slicker-learns-better aspect to La sacrée that’s in line with other French-Canadian comedies à La grande séduction, but it works more often than not. The film is a great deal easier to watch than some far bigger-budget films, and considerably funnier as well. La sacrée is not always equally enjoyable, but it’s more than occasionally witty (such as cutting from a love scene to church bells toiling in error) and even the rote romance works well enough. The protagonist predictably sort of redeems himself by the end of the film. It doesn’t aim higher than a mainstream small-town comedy, but it succeeds quite well at that. La sacrée is, in other words, a perfectly charming homegrown production that actually acts as a representative example of a familiar kind of Franco-Ontarian existence: the small town, the church, the childhood friends… I liked it quite enough even with my built-in biases … although I really wonder what non-French-Canadians would make of the very specific patois used in the film!

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