Radiant City Review
By Christopher Null
Jim Brown and Gary Burns skewer suburbia in Radiant City, laying out in black and white all of its flaws: Cold, impersonal, isolated, environmentally catastrophic, a promoter of terrible personal fitness and health habits. And when all the residents get old, an enormous dead zone that really can't be used for anything else. Suburban decay.
In this, er, documentary, residents of a Canadian 'burb are juxtaposed with academic talking heads, riding empty buses into town and bemoaning the very existence of the suburbs, decrying everything from their architecture to their absurd design that puts park benches opposite the freeway and a chain-link fence.
The characters in the film are nothing you wouldn't expect to come from the burbs: An overweight family man with a sort-of mean wife (she refuses to let him work on the car, ever), kids with over-scheduled free time and looking for trouble in an environment that gives them nothing to do but play on lots with houses under construction. (Which is pretty much exactly how I spent my youth.)
If there's one unusual element to this community, it's the bizarre play being put on in what passes for the center of town: A musical all about the suburbs, featuring a choreographed ode to the lawn mower as its opening act. (Not exactly how I spent my youth.)
You won't get far in reading about Radiant City without learning that a surprise is in store for you in the end. You'll probably see it coming before long -- there are plenty of hints -- but every time I've ever heard of a "surprise" at the end of a documentary it's always turned out to be one thing. That "shock" -- and the 10 minutes of blabbering that follow -- do a lot to ruin what is, up to that point, a very well crafted and easy to watch movie. It's ultimately far better than most documentaries of its ilk, and the finale isn't enough to sink it entirely.
Featuring some precious moments and insightful barbs, Radiant City is enough to remind me that it's a real luxury to be able to walk to lunch instead of having to drive five miles.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 30th May 2007
Distributed by: Burns Film Ltd.
Production compaines: Burns Film Ltd.
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 1
Cast & Crew
Starring: Hong Cheng as Hong, Kyle Grant as Kyle, Amanda Guenther as Tina, Daniel Jeffery as Nick, Mikeala Jeffrey as Nicole, James Howard Kunstler as James Howard Kunstler, Bob Legare as Evan, Jane MacFarlane as Anne, Curt McKinistry as Ken, Chantal Perron as Singer / Dogwalker, Karen Planden as Karen