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Rub and Tug
2002 - R - 90 Mins.
Director: Soo Lyu
Producer: Edward Stanulis
Written By: Soo Lyu, Edward Stanulis
Starring: Don McKellar, Tara Spencer Nairn, Kira Clavell, Michael Cram, Lindy Booth
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
Everyone, whether they want to or not, remembers their first job: trying to figure out what to wear to the interview, being worried doing the wrong thing or having no clue what to do at all. Now imagine the stress faced by a bookwork with limited social skills whose first job is managing sex trade workers.

For Conrad - professional student and recent university grad - having a job has, up until recently, been a novel concept. Determined to learn all he can he decides that a great place to learn about business and develop his people skills is to manage a massage parlour. After all, how difficult could it be? All he has to do is answer the door, treat the customers nicely, and ensure that the women follow the rules. Unfortunately for Conrad, the women have other ideas, and in the battle between book smarts and street smarts, there are bound to be some nasty casualties.

Before I proceed, there’s a dirty little secret that has to be revealed – this is a Canadian film. But put your fears to rest, this isn’t some esoteric experimental bouncing handy cam feature that can only be understood by fine arts post docs. The title alone should be enough to pique people’s interest and dispel concerns: the name refers to the service provided at the full-body massage parlours, or as it’s know in the trade “ a massage with a happy ending”.

Don McKellar, Canada’s hardest working actor, is brilliant as Conrad, deftly capturing the character’s blunt shell shocked naiveté both in speech and actions. Conrad is so clearly out of his element that it is painful to watch as he stumbles from one situation to the next, clearly unaware of what he’s supposed to be doing. One of the film’s funniest moments is a take on DeNiro’s classic “You talking to me?” tough guy scene. McKellar (for whom the role was literally written), also manages to make Conrad’s eventual transformation believable. The supporting cast does a terrific job as well.

Tara Spencer-Nairn is commanding (think dominatrix) as Betty the brassy business savvy street smart leader of the group. While we get to see her tough exterior (figuratively speaking), Betty’s soft and silly sides also peek out. Lindy Booth’s Lea defines quirky as the happy-go-lucky member of the group whose interest in the business is driven more by her desire to feel a “skinship” with her patrons than cash. The last member of the group is Cindy, the newcomer played with fresh wide-eyed innocence by Kira Clavell. Rounding out the players is the collection of customers who infuse the film with ribald humor.

The interactions between the characters feel natural, which is essential, given the comedic nature of the film – if the situations felt forced they wouldn’t achieve the desired effect. Soo Lyu, the film’s writer/director achieved this through a year’s worth of research, dozens of interviews with women in the business, a well-written script and by allowing the actors leeway to improvise.

As most of the action happens indoors, you would be hard pressed to guess that this film was made on a micro budget: the production values are solid, the editing is tight and the story is evenly paced. Add a lively sound track with a touch of porno chic, punchy writing that flows well, interesting subject matter with a side a voyeurism and you have the ingredients for a thoroughly enjoyable film.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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