There are a pair of films coming back to Toronto theatres for renewed engagements that we reviewed here previously on the site: The Privileged (which played at the Canadian Film Fest earlier this year and opens at Carlton Cinemas) and GMO OMG (which played last November at The Bloor, but now somehow inexplicably returns to The Royal like that engagement never happened).
The short version: The Privileged isn’t very good and there’s really not much that can be added to our previous capsule. GMO OMG is beyond atrocious and I would never want to relive it. So here now are exact replicas of the reviews we posted for both of these films the last time we watched them.
A junior lawyer (Joshua Close) at a high profile firm desperate to make amends with his boss (Sam Trammell) after a colossally botched case agrees to play nice at his boss’ Northern Ontario cottage. What he doesn’t realize is that he and his expectant wife are about to be caught up in a deep seeded rivalry between the island’s privileged residents in this almost unnecessarily slow, padded, and low key potboiler.
The set-up is pretty lightweight, with the real inciting incident happening at about the 40 minute mark of a 79 minute film. It’s a novel spark of life, but the film can’t quite understand what it wants to be. Does it want to be a home invasion thriller? A darkly satirical commentary on the haves and the have nots? A thriller about crooked real estate values? It stays tonally consistent, and the performances and Leah Walker’s mostly austere direction add a bit of creepiness, but the story quickly turns predictable and implausible after spending its first half not doing very much at all.
GMO OMG might be one of the most damaging advocacy documentaries ever created; not to the producers of the Genetically Modified Organisms it’s trying to expose as dangerous, money grubbing frauds, but to its very cause. It’s an amateurish, hamfisted, repetitive, and wholly useless movie that does more harm than help.
Spurred on by a desire to find out what’s in the food his children eat, filmmaker, narrator, and insufferably smug screen presence Jeremy Seifert sets out to find out what GMOs are and why major corporations have been patenting seeds and protecting their uses of pesticides and weed killers made through both natural and chemical compounds.
I feel the need to make my own politics known here for a second, because there’s no other way to describe how much I hate this movie. I do believe that the corporatization of food product manufacturing and the bullying of farmers into using genetically modified seed is reprehensible. I also think that there has to be some hard research done into the long term effects of GMOs on the human body and the ecosystem.
There absolutely has to be a better person to make a movie about this subject than the uncomfortably unlikable Seifert, who doesn’t seem like a human being, but rather a character from a Portlandia sketch. He doesn’t even really seem like a filmmaker, often coming across as an opportunist willing to exploit his own kids for cutesy montages; making them stand forlornly in front of fast food joints wearing “GMO goggles” and holding up signs of shame, and at one point even openly and mocking them ON CAMERA for eating some Breyer’s Ice Cream before exclaiming “It didn’t make him dead!” like a complete asshole. He’s the kind of guy who will go to Whole Foods and McDonalds to ask minimum wage workers if their food has GMOs in them when (1) he damned well already knows the answer and (2) he is only doing it to get footage of these unassuming rubes squirming. He’s also prone to fits of misplaced rage (“It’s pissing me off! I’m ready to get into a fist fight, like, right away.”), questioning people who don’t agree with him with ludicrous arguments (“Are you a religious man?”), and playing the “concerned father” card almost as much as he repeats the same facts over and over and over again.He repeats these facts because he can’t find one person who can back up his initial thesis that GMOs might be poisonous (a theory that should be explored, but no one has ever proved).
In the end, Seifert’s film amounts to the perfect example of a noble crusade reduced to the level of reactionary commentary. His crusade is a blindly moral one akin to exactly the same kind of ill informed mentality that he’s railing against. It’s not a serious look into a serious issue. It’s a look into one man’s psychotic break. But at least it’s well shot, and there are about 20 minutes worth of irrefutable facts that everyone should know about GMOs, but I implore you to seek the information out yourself and stay as far as humanly possible away from this trainwreck. I would much rather watch Warner Herzog follow Seifert like he was the subject of a Grizzly Man styled documentary than watch this ever again. It’s actually worse than the similarly didactic, but better mounted anti-sugar screed Fed Up earlier this year.
Really, how hard is it to make a food advocacy doc and not sound like a jerk about it?