TIFF-Songs She Wrote About People She Knows-2

Carol (The Cabin Movie’s scene-stealer Arabella Bushnell) has a lot that she wants to get off her chest. Years of anger and frustration are boiling underneath her serene demeanor. Taking advice from her therapist, she enrolls in a musical therapy group that teaches individuals to sing what they are feeling. Gifted with a lovely singing voice, Carol begins leaving catchy little songs, at least in her mind, on the answering machines of her friends and co-workers. These songs not only document all the things that she dislikes about the individuals, but also conveys not so subtle death threats.

Perplexed by how her actions can evoke such negative reactions from her friends, after all they are just songs; Carol is shocked when one of the recipients threatens to get the cops involved. Carol is also unprepared for the reaction that her boss Dave (Brad Dryborough) has after receiving her musical message late one night. As if opening his eyes for the first time, her scathing tune about the ways in which Dave is a jerk triggers something within him. Dave is not only inspired to re-ignite his passion for music but also to quit his job as well.

After using his last few hours as manager to fire Carol, Dave encourages the songstress with anger issues to join him on a quest to start their musical careers. Embarking on a road trip full of comedic mishaps, the pair not only ends up at the door of record producer Silent G (Ross Smith), but also must face Carol’s deep rooted issues.

Director Kris Elgstrand conjures a really great premise that does not quite hit the mark the way one hopes. There are many things that Songs She Wrote About People She Knows does nail though. The bold use of colour really pops off the screen, and fits nicely with the jazzy tone of the film. By utilizing close-up shots whenever Carol is singing one of the hilariously catchy ditties, Elgstrand brings a nice sense of intimacy to his broad comedy.

TIFF-Songs She Wrote About People She Knows

The most important element the film gets correct is in the casting of Arabella Bushnell as Carol. Bushnell is wonderful as the slightly off-centred singer who always seems one song note away from losing it completely. Her charm sells even the most outlandish of song lyrics. The fact that Bushnell and Dryborough, who is hilarious as the soul searching manager who also wants to get in Carol’s pants, display great chemistry helps to keep the audience’s attention throughout the film.

The main issue with Songs She Wrote About People She Knows is that there is simply not enough to sustain the film’s brisk running time. If Elgstrand had only developed his characters a little deeper he could have potentially made one of the truly great Canadian comedies. Outside of a few key scenes towards the end, there is very little to Carol’s overall character. She is the focal point of the film, but lacks the additional layers need to truly make her memorable. In fact, Dave gets a much richer arc and he is essentially the comic relief.

Despite the talent and potential on display in front and behind the camera, there is simply not enough substance to make Songs She Wrote About People She Knows the great comedy it could have been. I have no doubt that Elgstrand and crew will hit the right notes on their next film, but this one is rather pitchy.