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"Live Bait", the debut feature from Vancouver based film-maker Bruce Sweeney, at first seems to be an absurdist comedy about one 23 year old virgin's attempts to get laid during his first summer after college graduation. If it were an American film made in the 80's, it would be just that. Period. But "Live Bait" is a Canadian film made in 1995, and it is so much more than the video box makes it appear to be. In reality, the film is a telling look at the breakup of a family. The main character, Trevor's problems with women are only a small part of the story.
Basically, Trevor is on the outside looking in. Although Trevor is well loved by his family, he doesn't feel that he is truly needed. The sad truth is that his family doesn't really know what to make of him. For his 23rd birthday (right as the film starts), his dad's gift to him is a bullwhip. Trevor has no idea what to do with it. The only use the whip gets is from Trevor's older brother who uses it to play kinky sex games with his girlfriend (which Trevor spies on through a hole in the wall). Trevor sees his dad on a date with another woman but he can't find the nerve to say anything. When Trevor moves out of the house, it's not for any practical purpose (it's only a few blocks away), but just to get away from his family, to find someone who really does need him. He eventually finds her: his 60 year old boss with whom he falls in love.
"Live Bait" is an unusual film. It's a tense family drama with a twist: there is not one single unlikable character in the entire movie. Sure there are weird ones (Trevor's roommate), ones who do unlikable things (Trevor's dad), and ones who don't always act as we think they should: Trevor has a few dates in the movie. He turns down the sexual advances of every single one of them. We want to shout at him, "hey! You're a 23 year old virgin. Go for it!" But he doesn't care enough for any of the women to make love to any of them. That's the point. All the characters act like real complex people. That's what make them so endearing.
If "Live Bait" were an American studio film, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be ten times less complex. There would be a couple out and out scumbags thrown in for good measure, some nudity, and maybe a little fist fight between father and son. Sweeney knows however, that this being a Canadian film, there is not much chance that this film would be seen even if he did "sell out," so he made the film that would fill his soul rather than his wallet. On an extremely low budget he made a work of art that can be enjoyed by just about anyone with a hunger for something different.
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