Cloudburst's home run

Thom Fitzgerald's road trip love story opens Friday in Halifax for a limited run

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Olympia Dukakis keeps on truckin in Cloudburst
  • Olympia Dukakis keeps on truckin in Cloudburst

Local director Thom Fitzgerald’s feature film Cloudburst has burned through the festival circuit since its release in 2011, snagging awards left, right and centre, winning the audience award at the 2011 Atlantic Film Festival, following that up with 25 more audience awards at film festivals all over the world.

Starring Oscar-winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a same-sex couple en route to Nova Scotia to get married, and Ryan Doucette as the young hitchhiker they pick up along the way, Cloudburst opens Friday, December 7 for a two-week run at Park Lane. We recommend bringing your partner of 30 years (if applicable).

“I get a lot of feedback that people love the chemistry between Brenda and Olympia, and also with Ryan, and I think that's a pretty classic reason audiences respond to a movie,” says Fitzgerald. “Also, these characters are pretty unique in film—it's a bit of an odd feeling to see a lesbian senior movie hero, and on the other hand their story is very simple and universal. I think the secret ingredient is that Brenda and Olympia never sugar-coated the romance. They both have long marriages under their belts and they refused to romanticize what a 30 year relationship is. So it's a bit more real than most movie romances and therefore the humour strikes a very familiar chord with audiences.”

Newcomer Ryan Doucette plays the tough-but-vulnerable Prentice, a dancer on his way back home to visit his dying mother. Prentice learns from Dukakis and Fricker’s characters Stella and Dot, as Doucette the actor learned from the seasoned pros on set. “Ryan's a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights but the women really took him under their wings and raised his game. They loved him, it was ridiculous,” says Fitzgerald. “For a director, every actor is a unique relationship, a new way of communicating has to be found. If you don't understand each other rather intimately the process turns into a tough slog. Each of the three has become a dear friend to me and that's rare.”

Fitzgerald’s own learning experience came from how he developed the film, first starting as a story, Cloudburst ran at the Plutonium Playhouse in 2010 as a play before he adapted it into a screenplay. “It felt a bit meta—kind of a multi-platform approach but instead of developing the futuristic Nintendo version I was developing the archaic stage play version. The writing was always continually affected by audiences—that was new to me. To have a live theatre audience experience the story seven nights a week for five weeks told me what beats worked, what lines fell flat, how not to say them or to change them slightly. The result is this movie is fun to see with an audience,” says Fitzgerald. “That the film touches an audience in Halifax or San Francisco or Prague the same way—that's pretty cool.”

Not content with merely page, stage or film, Fitzgerald has set his sights on the small screen for his next project. “I'm shooting a very small TV series which breaks the seal on the Catholic confessional,” he says. Starring Mike McLeod and John Dunsworth, the show will run for 12 episodes. “The show is really all about acting, intimacy, secrets. And guilt, of course. It's called Forgive Me. I just did movies for quite a few years and in the last couple of years I got to return to live theatre and now try series television but still in a sort of 'auteur' kind of way—using parts of my brain I thought were atrophied beyond repair. It's really a very rich and creative time. Always scary, which I guess it should be.”

Dukakis and Fricker will attend the Wednesday, December 12 showing (7pm, Park Lane) followed by a Q&A hosted by Women in Film and Television Atlantic.

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