Magical realism calls the tune in this rewardingly offbeat urban drama, which eventually made its debut on Canadian broadast TV instead of the theater screens it so richly deserved. Grossly overweight, gifted teenager Junior Brown (Martin Villafana) is only tenuously in touch with squalid reality. His father is often absent on business, leaving Junior at the mercy of an ailing mother (Lynn Whitfield) so neurotic and manipulative she cut the strings of the prized upright piano in her son's bedroom. Junior instead receives support and protection via an allegiance of slum dwellers, like schoolmate Buddy (Rainbow Sun Francks), a homeless orphan who flirts with the gang lifestyle to secure his own `planet,' or safehouse. Buddy escorts Junior to unorthodox piano lessons taught by paranoid shut-in Miss Peebs (Margot Kidder), and to private tutelage in astronomy and confidence by school janitor Mr. Pool (Clark Johnson). Despite his own problems, Buddy controls Junior's growing, clumsy interest in girls, and brings him back to earth when Junior begins sharing Miss Peeb's morbid delusions. But Mrs. Brown considers Buddy a bad influence, and her hysterical over-protectiveness drives the unworldy Junior from home. From Mr. Pool's miniature model solar system to a ghoulish, crippled stranger co-hallucinated by Junior and Miss Peebs, JUNIOR'S GROOVE is rich with hypnotic and foreboding imagery courtesy of Jamaican-Canadian director Clement Virgo, working from Virginia Hamilton's award-winning 1971 novel. Cynics may be unpersuaded by the drama of feral street kids and social misfits joined to nurture a prodigy in their midst, but the film's forceful performances hit the right notes, though the sight of Margot Kidder as a madwoman is somewhat disturbing; the Canadian actress was found wandering the streets in 1995 in the grip of a highly-publicized mental breakdown. Co-star Rainbow Sun Francks is the son of actor/musician Don Francks, best known for his song-and-dance turn as the romantic lead of Coppola's FINIAN'S RAINBOW (1968). The film is dedicated to the late musician David Mack, who introduced producer Paul Stephens to Hamilton's novel.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: Magical realism calls the tune in this rewardingly offbeat urban drama, which eventually made its debut on Canadian broadast TV instead of the theater screens it so richly deserved. Grossly overweight, gifted teenager Junior Brown (Martin Villafana) is onl… (more)