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Thursday, September 28, 2006

BRENT BOYD'S AURORA BOREALIS


In the first date scene between Duncan (Joshua Jackson) and Kate (Juliette Lewis), meant to resemble Matt's Bar in South Minneapolis, Kate exclaims that Minneapolis is a great city to live in. Duncan asks if she means his neighborhood and she answers, "Well, this isn't as nice as St. Paul" to which Duncan answers, "St. What?" and she resserts "St. Paul!" Duncan, whose lived in Minneapolis all his life says, "Never heard of it."

At the Lagoon Theater preview screening in Minneapolis, this line gets a big laugh but one has to wonder if it plays in New York or North Carloina and if people in those cities even know that the boundry between the two cities is blurred, perhaps even, indisquishable except for the winding Mississippi. I asked Brent Boyd this question. He says, yes, the insider lines and distinctive Minnesota humor plays all over the country. In fact, Boyd claims the more particular and specific you get writing your screenplay and defining characters, the more unviersal the story becomes.

AURORA BOREALIS opens nationwide this week with Donald Sutherland, Lewis, Jackson, and Louise Fletcher (you might remember Fletcher as nurse Ratchett in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST) and a distinctively regional Minnesota accent. While the film was shot in Toronto, the exteriors are dresssed up to look like Minneapolis with a few b-roll juxtapostions to fool you. But make no mistake, the film is pure Minnesota in character and perspective from the opening song Bob Dylan's "Everything is Broken" to the oft referenced Replacements with a cameo appearance from Paul Westerberg.

Sutherland's character Ronald Shorter emerges directly out of the Minnesota's Northwoods. Almost lumberjackian in displeasure and Finish in temperment, the former hardware store owner suffers from Parkinson's and the "A-bomb." Through the trials of losing control over his body and environment becomes uneasily settled in South Minneapolis under the caring eye of his wife (played by Fletcher) and his unemployed and unambitious grandson Duncan as well as a health care assistant played by Lewis.

Sutherland grabs onto the old feisty Scandinavian rugged-individualism attitude with success. During the filming of AURORA BOREALIS, Boyd was kept on the set for rewrites and often Sutherland badgered and podded the young writer as a way of reaching a better understanding of Ronald Shorter. Depending on the field of possible supporting actor roles this year, Sutherland might grab a nomination for best supporting actor in this film, however, the film's release has no backing from a studio and is struggling under the inexperience of its specialized distributor Regent who might not be up for the challenge of handling the larger audience potential of a Sutherland film. And certainly, in the horse-race for Oscar nominations an experienced distribution company makes an enormous difference in placing their horse in the gates.

Never-the-less, the appreciation of the films humor and specificity comes from the contrast a Minnesota character offers to the outside viewer. For viewers like my wife (a Brazilian) and her friends from outside the country, they immediately recongize the "Minnesota-guy" syndrome that Duncan suffers under. And perhaps also the release an outsider like Kate presents to their focused world under his fur lined parka hood.

Definitely a film for the autumn holiday season.