TIFF 2016 Review: Prank
For anyone familiar with recent Canadian cinema, Vincent Biron’s Prank will inevitably bring up comparisons to Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant, a coming-of-age story taking place in Northern Ontario that showed the fun and malice of growing pains. Biron’s film is more like a crude spiritual successor to Cividino’s movie; it deals with similar themes, but it changes locations to suburban Quebec and indulges in juvenile humour as much as it can. Chubby teenager Stefie (Étienne Galloy) is an awkward loner spending his summer in solitude when he meets Martin (Alexandre Lavigne) and Jean-Se (Simon Pigeon), two older kids who spend their days film themselves performing pranks on strangers. They use Stefie to film one of their stunts, and he soon becomes a part of the group, which includes Martin’s girlfriend Lea (Constance Massicotte). Stefie falls hard for Lea, and tensions between the group grow as Stefie gets frustrated at how poorly his new friends treat him.
Prank is aimless by design, but it’s hard to tell what exactly Biron’s intention is beyond showing both the cruelty and camaraderie of youth. The prank sequences tend to be blind stabs at dark humour, with Biron portraying the victims as sad sacks whose day is about to get significantly worse. The interactions between the four pranksters are nothing more than awkward, petty insults, usually aimed at each other’s private parts. The whole thing is like a miserable loop of bad humour, and its narrative deals in nothing but love triangle cliches. The final minutes, where the gang of four get together to pull off their biggest prank to date, involves a double twist that feels like Biron trying to prank his own audience by playing into the expectations of a third-act tragedy. It’s a fine concept, but in execution, it feels like an act of subversion for its own sake, which can grow tiresome once you’re older than, say, twelve.