The critics at Rotten Tomatoes can be a tough crowd to please, but Percy Hynes White is getting a perfect score for his role as co-star of the ultra-indie film, I Like Movies.
The film premiered last September and was released across Canada in March. In June, film critic Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail ranked it number seven on his list of “the 23 best Canadian comedies ever made.”
Set in Burlington, Ontario in the early 2000s, the film follows the dreams and disappointments of 17-year-old Lawrence Kweller, whose obsessions all center on movies — the characters, the plots and the life lessons he sees illuminated on cathode-ray screens. Lawrence is Northern Exposure’s Ed Chigliac in a warmer climate, but with fewer colorfully entertaining friends.
While the laid-back Ed dreamed of making films with Fellini, Lawrence hopes to attend film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. To no one’s surprise, he decides to finance the move by working at the local video store. (Oh, nostalgia.)
In a reverse of The Purple Rose of Cairo’s concept, Lawrence’s fascination with cinema draws him into the screen and beyond, alienating his family and best friend Matt Macarchuck, played by Percy. In the process, he develops a complex friendship with the store’s manager, a middle-aged woman named Alana. Both Lawrence and the film are immersed in the ultimate question: Is Lawrence a real talent, or just a socially awkward poseur?
Just as intriguing is the story behind the story — a tale of resourcefulness by the film’s production team, which found a vacant Blockbuster Video store in Owen Sound, Ontario that was still chock-full of cassettes, DVDs, clunky computers, promotional posters and other relics of pre-streaming North America.
The film’s many honors include four awards at the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards in 2022: Best Canadian Film, Best Actor in a Canadian Film (Isaiah Lehtinen, playing Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film (Percy Hynes White) and Best Screenplay for a Canadian Film (writer and director Chandler Levack).
On Rotten Tomatoes, critics have given I Like Movies their highest praises. Katie Rife from IndieWire described the movie as: “A film that is small but not slight, sweet but not cloying, and the kind of thing that can make even a cynical critic like movies again.”
Nadine Whitney of The Curb wrote: “I Like Movies is bittersweet, funny, sad, and ultimately kind. You’d be a curmudgeon to not like this movie.”
According to Darryl Griffiths of Movie Marker, I Like Movies “is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age story.”
Dallas King of Flick Feast observed: “The setting with its ramshackle group of misfits passing judgment on people’s viewing choices brings to mind the likes of High Fidelity and Clerks. Where those films were full of sarcasm, snark and scorn, this has a more positive outlook on the world.”
The full chorus of critics would seem to agree with this insight from Drew Gregory of Autostraddle: “It’s not just a tribute to movies, but a tribute to what the best movies can accomplish — encouraging us to look out as much as we look in.”
The good news is that I Like Movies is now available for streaming. But for the most authentic experience, try to find it on videocassette.
Just remember to rewind.