Directed by Bruce McDonald (Roadkill, Hard Core Logo, Pontypool), Trigger tells the story of Vic (Tracy Wright) and Kat (Molly Parker), childhood friends who once had an extremely successful rock band until on stage argument signaled their demise. Ten years later, Kat works in the music industry in Los Angeles and Vic is still in Toronto. Kat returns home to attend a benefit concert and convinces Vic to accompany her. Through the evening, the two women battle each other and their inner demons. Which of them is happy? Can you go back to where you were or are some bridges burnt beyond repair?
No one does a rock ‘n roll movie quite like McDonald; he has an innate understanding of what thing genre of music does and means. Whereas Hard Core Logo examined hard male rockers trying to come back from relative obscurity, Trigger is about the toll that drug and alcohol abuse can unsurprisingly take. Kat’s life in LA is seemingly filled with glamour and excitement, having parlayed from her hard rock image to one of commercial music endeavours. Vic has retreated inside herself. As the evening goes on, it becomes clear that most prefer Vic and almost completely snub Kat. Vic is seen as the real genius behind the music, and it is she who might still have a genuine career. But it is Vic’s drug demons that seem greater, looming large (sometimes quite literally) as she fights to maintain sobriety.
The opening scene is shown as a black-and-white fan video looking up at the stage of the band’s final performance, and it takes every cliché of hard rockers (drinking onstage, destroying instruments) and gives it from this perspective a new meaning. Neither woman is perfect, but neither of them is horrible. The film consists mainly of their conversations. These women do not (or perhaps cannot) hide behind the drugs and alcohol anymore; any bitterness and anger must be let out without excuse. Kat may have sold out, but the regret is clear in her determination to remain composed.
While I’ve never thought Parker was a great actor, by midway through the film she seems to have warmed to the materiality and let her usual guard down for brief glimpses into one side of the tragedy of rock music. But this film belongs to Tracy Wright. It is said that stars shine brightest just before they go out. If that’s true, then Wright’s performance is a supernova. The Toronto actress died this past spring; her performance is nothing short of astonishing. She is its anchor and its beacon. The audience will want to both smack Vic and hold her tight at the same time. In fact, the audience will wish the conversations would continue, that they could follow Kat and Vic on their wanderings through downtown Toronto to perhaps catch of glimpse of their strange and beautiful understanding.