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By David Grove | December 13, 2001

The problem with Canadian films is that they try too hard to be American, or they’re too Canadian to appeal to a wider audience. “Highway 61” (1990) could be thought of as a precursor to “Pulp Fiction” but no one saw it, and when “Cube” was released a couple of years ago to acclaim, it was mercilessly compared to “Pi.” It says something that the most popular film to come out of Canada was “Porky’s.” If there’s one genre that might be considered uncharted territory for Canadian film it’s the romantic-comedy and now we get “The Art of Woo.” Problem is, it’s just a low rent knockoff of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Alessa Woo(former MuchMucic VJ Sook-Yin Lee) is an underdog from Toronto who dreams of marrying a rich guy, or to be more exact, she dreams of being a modern day incarnation of Audrey Hepburn. To get the rich boyfriend, she pretends to be a rich Hong Kong debutante and tries to fit in with the beautiful people of high society. Predictably, the first guy she traps isn’t rich at all, but a total scumbag(Don McKellar). Then she meets the man of her dreams; a bright young artist(Adam Beach) and a tenant in her building. The guy has everything, except money, and then, guess what happens? A rich guy falls in love with Alessa and quickly proposes. Does she choose love or money?
There have been many a successful romantic-comedy made from lesser plots than “The Art of Woo” but rarely do they appear as sluggish and as graceless as this film. The plot of “The Art of Woo” is so needlessly complicated that it just poisons everything. That’s not to mention the predictability of the story. Is it any surprise that Ben(Beach) has some connection with Alessa’s rich new fiancé? A better romantic-comedy would offer a myriad of pleasant distractions, but “The Art of Woo” is rather barren. The “forced quirkiness” of the film and the way it telegraphs every move really inspires resentment.
There’s a desperation at the screenplay level here. As “The Art of Woo” struggles to get off the ground, the film switches back and forth, from deep emotions to light comedy to being quirky. It’s as if Director Helen Lee was trying to throw everything at the wall and hoping that something would stick. That’s how it feels for the viewer.
Is there anything good in the film? Yes, there’s Adam Beach, he’s good. He’s a very striking young actor, and there’s something going on with him. You might remember him from “Smoke Signals” where he showed good comic timing. The fact that he’s Native-American, a rare species in Hollywood, makes him stand out even more. Beach is the kind of exotic, charming presence who makes you wish he had better dialogue to say and a better movie to say it in.
But let’s be honest here. Films like “The Art of Woo” are basically sample reels. To be fair, on the basis of this work, you could say that writer-director Helen Lee knows how to frame a scene, and work well with actors, despite a weak script. Maybe Lee will use this and go on to make a good film which “The Art of Woo” is most certainly not. Lee has, if nothing else, made a professional looking film(on a budget of $450,000) and she certainly shows a willingness to use every trick in the romantic-comedy book. This one just doesn’t have enough woo, or woo that’s new.

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  1. Jenny Doyle says:

    I really liked this movie. I initially only wanted to see it because Adam Beach was in it, but I was also pleasantly surprised with the rest of the cast too.
    I found Alyssa likeable and believable. Except when she wanted to dump Ben(Adam) , of course…….who in their right mind …would dump Ben (Adam)……rich ….or poor!
    I found it entertaining and enjoyable, I liked all the characters in it, and thought it was well acted.
    And of course, the always GORGEOUS Adam Beach didn’t disappoint. It was easy to see why Alyssa/Ellen fell in love with HIM !!!
    Even though made on a lower budget, this movie was so much better than some of the high budget crap that Hollywood sometimes churns out.
    Very enjoyable film, that deserves more credit than it is getting here.

  2. Mark Bell says:

    Personally, I think films should strive to be more than just a “good effort.” It can be argued that every film that is finished is a good effort, because of the great challenge filmmaking can be. I understand the “aim low and surprise yourself” as opposed to the “aim high, for even if you miss you’ll land among the stars,” but I don’t think a filmmaker’s intentions, in that way, should dictate whether the film is good or bad. The film should do that. And if it is a bad film, but a good effort (as in it got finished and the filmmaker achieved their own goals with it), then… it’s still a bad film, but the value of that critical assessment is up to the reader.

  3. prima_ballerina says:

    Never mind the piss poor reviews and total negativity towards this good Canadien film effort and lets remember thats exactly what it was… a nice Canadien independent film effort which was not meant to be the next stupid ‘American pie’ like bullshit film for American degenerates and their endless chain of releases of the same “comedy”, consisting of nothing but overly sexual,childish humour and I think what my mother would once refer to as “bathroom humour” which apparently is what makes a big seller Blockbuser movie these days made straight up for retards,teenagers and Americans a movie apparently sucks! If it is not like that!
    All it was meant to be is a good solid independent film EFFORT! Which as one of u admits was all things considered a good effort but did it fail to entertain? Well no… u see it was entertaining! And thats it! I hope all that made sense as it did in my head but might someone be able to tell me why/and or where could this film be found? Not by torrent or youtube, or Amazon or OnDemand! My ex had one of the main roles and I havent been able to get a copy of it anywhere! Might anyone have a copy and if so would they be willing to upload er’ somewhere even just on Youtube so tha this poor movie can at least be seen so people can make up their own minds? Arhg… this subject really irratates me to no end! F**k can you tell??

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