Based on the theatrical play by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, MOUTHPIECE (premiered at TIFF) centres on Cassandra, a woman who is making the arrangements for her mother’s funeral, who is played by both Nostbakken and Sadava as a dramatization of her inner conflict.
Canadian writer/director Patricia Rozema shot to fame with her quirky features, most notably I SAW THE MERMAIDS SINGING (and a more stable MANSFIELD PARK) which also propelled its star Sheila McCarthy to stardom. The film was at the time the darling of the Toronto International Film Festival and Rozema’s films have frequented TIFF ever since. This gives her the chance to be more daring. MOUTHPIECE, based on the play by its two leads is as daring as daring can be.
MOUTHPIECE opens with a 30-year old writer riding home a bicycle during Christmas with another girl. They sleep on the same bed. The immediate question is whether they are lovers. But it turns out that they may be sisters and they react similarly to the revelation of the death of ones mother. It turns out that these two women are manifestations of the same character both portrayed by two different actresses. These two actresses also wrote the script and the play which director Rozema based her film on. But the audience is not told of the fact that these two persons are one of the same. The result is a confusing and very annoying beginning.
The two leads Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava fare well, playing against each other, being one and then being different, considering that they should since they write the original material (the play) together.
Is MOUTHPIECE a dark comedy? For one, it is not funny. As an experimental piece, the novelty of the experiment wears off quite fast. Worse of all, the experiment is never explained and it takes a while to figure what is going on. Nothing makes much sense as well, so there is no point trying to figure what is going on why, when or what. The sex scene in which one personality is watching the other copulating is one of the more inventive segments – weird as it is.
The film contains other quirky scenes like the one where the two lie in the coffin Cassandra has picked up for her recently passed mother. The funeral parlour director can only say that people feel differently for they losses.
The film shot in Toronto, apparently during the festive season is a pleasant diversion to look at. Cinematography, quite stunning especially in the one scene with the multitude of birds in the sky, is by d.p. Catherine Lutes. Most of them film’s crew are feminine which is a welcome change from the norm.
There are a few reasons, primarily its novelty for watching MOUTHPIECE. Unfortunately, there are even more reasons particularly the exasperating result (try watching the film in its entirety in one sitting) for not seeing this pretentious artistic exercise.