Though ripe with maddening elements, it's a stretch to suggest that suburban life actually causes madness. That's the none-too-subtle subtext of the Canadian film Falling Angels, however. An adaptation of a Barbara Gowdy novel set in 1969, it makes frequent references to housebound mom Miranda Richardson's past life as a dancing beauty while showing her gazing catatonically at commercials for cleaning products on a couch that looks straight from the Sears showroom. Husband Callum Keith Rennie doesn't help matters much, drinking himself into a stupor and trailing the scent of other women. At least he seems to have calmed down from the recent past when, in an event portrayed in an ongoing series of flashbacks, he informed his family of an imminent nuclear disaster and forced them to spend two weeks in a fall-out shelter for practice.
Their dysfunctional existence has apparently forced Rennie and Richardson's daughters to assume the part of teen clichés. Ginger Snaps' Katharine Isabelle plays the part of the cynical rebel, Kristin Adams the naïve beauty, and Monté Gagné the chubby, shy baby of the family. Some early flashes of sprightly humor suggest that director Scott Smith and screenwriter Esta Spalding will find a new path by which to explore the well-trodden territory of ';60s upheaval and ranch-home angst, but the film quickly settles into a tone as flat as the landscape. Only a defiant turn from Isabelle and a lecherous supporting performance by Kids In The Hall's Mark McKinney break up the all-too-familiar teens-in-the-';60s rites of passage. One sequence even cross-cuts between an LSD trip and a character's attempts to reveal her pregnancy to her lover. It's a wonder Scott didn't think to include footage of Vietnam protests set to Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." But then that might have only underscored the fact that, by now, when an oppressive father and a VW van show up in the same movie, everyone knows what's going down.