Do Something with Your Life is a good-hearted romantic dramedy with some attitude, and a film Vancouverites can be proud of. First of all, it’s actually set in Vancouver – for once, we don’t double for Virginia, or Smallville, or whatever city that is in Tron: Legacy. Vancouver landmarks are shown with pride, and the city rewards this by being its usual picturesque self.
Second of all, Do Something is a collaboration between all manner of local crew, actors, and musicians, and the enthusiasm and talent on display is a reassuring promise for the next generation of Canadian film-making. The film isn’t perfect – it’s a first feature for director Darren Borrowman and other crew, on an essentially non-existent budget, and these things do show – but it’s an impressive debut with laughs, drama, and a lot more thoughtfulness than the average Hollywood rom-com.
Actually, a clump of hair purportedly cut from Elvis’ head in 1958 recently sold for a sum about the size of Do Something’s budget. Here, though, is precisely where our city steps up to the plate; Borrowman and cinematographer Jordan Ewan squeeze so many appealing settings and backgrounds out of Vancouver that the film quickly outplays the potential low-budget feeling that often plagues movies of this size.
The main reason that the film overcomes its budgetary limitations, though, is simply that it’s good. The story of a hapless loser confronted by new and old flames, job issues, and family strife is not unfamiliar, but it unfolds through a movie that proves funny, occasionally touching, and most importantly, unique. There’s a lesson for Hollywood in the enjoyment we find in this little Canadian indie: a little attitude and a little veracity goes a long way.
What really connects us to the film is that many of its characters aren’t idealized. There’s some measure of sadness in most of them, and the film neither shies away from this nor treats it gratuitously. Protagonist Mike Brown’s shiftlessness, casual drug use, and fear of change are treated with a sincerity that allows a stronger connection between film and audience than one typically gets from the Hollywood romance, realm of the straight white teeth and adorably simple character flaws.
That’s where the attitude comes in, too. The film is as light and fun as any for much of its running time, but it doesn’t pull punches when things get bad. The sense of sincerity that we get from the beer-soaked backyard wrestling matches and giddy first-dates montage continues into the film’s low points as well. Impressively, with a film of this size and type, Borrowman sets out to draw a little blood from his protagonist, and succeeds. While Ryan Reynolds or Matthew McConaughey might sell us the arrested-development lovable loser on a regular basis, Tom Belding’s Mike isn’t above being a genuine jerk, and what catharsis he gets is all the better for it.
And it’s funny. Comedy is a difficult art, but many of the film’s sequences and jokes are handled with an assurance that allows for totally organic laughs. It’s that great feeling where the jokes grow out of the story rather than being the product of improv and pop-culture reference – again, a lesson Apatow-era Hollywood would do well to heed. It’s testament to a talented cast and crew that the screening of Do Something was consistently accompanied by belly laughs from the audience.
Do Something With Your Life is definitely one to check out. See it for the laughs, for the drama, for Vancouver…see it to be reminded of the awesome things that people are doing in our city. If nothing else, see it because, who knows, you might spot your house in there somewhere.