Reel Toronto: This Movie is Broken
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Reel Toronto: This Movie is Broken

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Even if Bruce McDonald had done nothing more than the “It’s Not Unusual” scene in Highway 61, the pineapple-almond-cookie episode of Twitch City, and the entirety of Hard Core Logo, his cinematic stature would be undisputed. You have to understand that before understanding how horribly depressing This Movie is Broken is.
Cinematically, it’s a wonderful love letter to Toronto, and it’s also a pretty good document of Broken Social Scene’s July 2009 Harbourfront show. But there are two problems: the Toronto it’s a love letter to only exists in this weird hipster bubble, and the story only seems to exist because the filmmakers couldn’t get funding to do the straight concert film they wanted to.

It’s not that we have anything against hipsters—some of our favourite Torontoist readers are hipsters!—but the trio of hipsters in this flick give hipsters a bad name (and yes, we know we’re saying “hipster” a lot). These are the people who wear funky hats and do nothing much, except bud in line at a patio. That’s what they’re doing here, at Kos, in Kensington.
And if you were a hipster staying in town before going away to school (in Paris, natch!) you’d just have to stay at the Drake, wouldn’t you?
So we also have to visit the lobby, which is hip…
…and start a golden hour bike ride on West Queen West…
…through Trinity Bellwoods Park
…and along the Indy track at the Ex.
The Indy track? Yeah. See, our main hipster does some work on the track when he’s not, like, being hip.
It would be one thing if you got the sense these characters really dug Broken Social Scene, but all they really seem to want to do is scam free tickets, until they find out it’s a free show. Then they decide they have to scam backstage passes. Here they do just that, from the late, great Tracy Wright. Shame, hipsters, shame.
When they finally do get backstage, they utterly fail to take advantage of it. They do, however, try to take advantage of the backstage bouncer, played by the also-great Stephen McHattie. Hipsters, is there no limit to how far you’ll sink?!
They even take advantage of the innocent Natrel pond, drunkenly wading in like it ain’t no thang.
Most of the movie consists of long BSS moments from their obviously awesome show at Harbourfront. Depending on your point of view, the concert either frequently disrupts the narrative or the other way around. Possibly the concert and the narrative are supposed to play off each other on some deep, metaphorical level, but that doesn’t really happen.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are not fun hipsters we’d wanna hang with. (Our own John Semley felt the exact same way. The movie, he writes in his Cinema Scope review of it, “present[s] us with the hipsters even hipsters can’t stand.”)
We don’t want to be totally negative.
The film starts gloriously, setting the scene during the 2009 civic workers’ strike with shots like this, of Christie Pits.
And we do get some beautiful shots like these of the skyline…
…and the lake…
…and this bird floating through the financial district…
…and this timelapse of construction at CityPlace. Make no mistake, there’s some gorgeous stuff in here.
There’s a script credited to the always-awesome Don McKellar, but we find it a bit hard to believe there was really a script at all. This Movie is Broken feels largely improvised, especially since McDonald shot his movie rather boldly amidst the real concert.
Of course, our entitled hipsters arrive late to the show and shove their way to the front, spend much of the show missing the music, and disrupt members of the crowd who couldn’t obey the dictum to NOT LOOK AT THE CAMERAS.
Like YOU! Red Guy, DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA!! It’s like you’re staring into our collective soul!
Hey, young lady with the big brown eyes, DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA!
You guys, by the bridge? Can’t you follow instructions?
What about y’all, hanging by the lakefront? Do you think you could try not looking? What are you gawking at? It ain’t like Brangelina’s strolling by.
Siiigh. So, if you want to find out about either McDonald, McKellar, or Broken Social Scene, this is not the place to start. However, if you’re a selfish hipster who finally got to sleep with his lifelong love before she leaves for Paris while staying at the Drake the night before you got to go backstage and meet Broken Social Scene, you’ll probably really relate.