TIFF 2014 Review: Bang Bang Baby
A debut feature 10 years in the making, Bang Bang Baby is a project high on ambition that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Canadian filmmaker Jeffrey St.Jules combines many elaborate genres; period piece, sci-fi, and musical, to make one film that feels unfocused, yet still endearing. Jane Levy stars as Stepphy, a small town girl with big dreams of being a singer. It appears as though she may have her chance, when rock and roll singer Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin, who obviously is poking fun at Elvis Presley in the role) finds himself stranded in her town of Lonely Arms, Canada, and the two begin a whirlwind romance. However, things aren’t as seamless as they appear, as a local power plant has a leak that threatens nightmare invoking body mutations to the residents of town.
Bang Bang Baby is wonderful at throwing back to the 1960s. It manages to have a classic feel that sometimes verges on parody, but the tone overall works. However, the plot and the dilemma of Stepphy’s character, being torn between love, her dreams, her father, and the impending body mutation, is a bit too much for the film to handle. The film never really goes full out horror, as the threat of the power plant feels more jokey than scary. As a period piece, it affectively captures the happy-go-lucky mixed with small-town gloom that a young 1960s girl would have to deal with, and Jane Levy is great in her role. All of the other characters feel like cardboard cut-outs, and although this is probably intentional, it lessens the impact of the film. As far as the musical aspect goes, it feels natural but the songs are forgettable and feel more like they are making fun of the genre than embracing it.
Overall, Bang Bang Baby has its heart in the right place, but in trying to balance too many genres and problems, it falters and doesn’t leave a lasting impact on the audience. However, it is still a valiant effort from first time director Jeffrey St.Jules who definitely has a refreshingly inspired vision to offer.