White Lies

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama

An impressionable student comes under the influence of white supremicists in this drama, which features strong performances by Sarah Polley, Tanya Allen and veteran Lynn Redgrave. Middle-class high school senior Catherine Chapman (Polley) isn't uncomfortable in ever-more multiethnic Canada, especially after she's rejected for a fast food job at the mall...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An impressionable student comes under the influence of white supremicists in this drama, which features strong performances by Sarah Polley, Tanya Allen and veteran Lynn Redgrave. Middle-class high school senior Catherine Chapman (Polley) isn't uncomfortable in ever-more multiethnic Canada, especially after she's rejected for a fast food job at the mall because she's not fluent in Cantonese. But efforts to voice her concerns at school invite ridicule, and her paper questioning certain policies — like banning religious observances in favor of neutral holiday celebrations — results in censure for not "getting into the spirit" of One World Week festivities. So she vents her frustrations in a chat room, where she also posts the offending paper. Catherine doesn't realize the chat room is run by the National Identity Movement, a white power organization, but her paper causes a sensation. She's invited to meet some of her chat-room acquaintances, and hits it off with the personable, outspoken Erina (Allen), who invites her to a party. Catherine quickly realizes that her new friends hold extremely unpopular views, but they put their most reasonable face forward and shower her with acceptance and praise. She finds warm substitutes for her own distant parents in charismatic Rex Brennan (Joseph Kell) and maternal Mrs. Kolneder (Redgrave), a best friend in Erina and a boyfriend in NIM heartthrob Ian McKell (Jonathan Scarfe), who fronts white supremicist hardcore band Redemption. Unaware that the organization sees her as the mediagenic public face of which they're in desperate need, Catherine begins writing for the NIM newsletter. She's driven deeper into their company, and when the Kolneder home is fire-bombed, injuring Mrs. K and several other guests, her transformation seems complete. But she continues to harbor doubts about the swastikas, Holocaust denials and violence, and the deeper into NIM Catherine gets the more she realizes that she doesn't have as much in common with them as she thought. This even-handed Canadian telefilm tackles some of the situation's ambiguities — NIM's liberal nemesis, journalist Allen Green (Albert Schultz) is every bit as manipulative as Brennan and Mrs. K — and makes Catherine's transformation from passive, vaguely dissatisfied teenager to apologist for hate mongering disturbingly plausible. The pacing is choppy (often the case with made-for-TV productions), the ending is abrupt and unconvincing and the film lacks the visceral kick of ROMPER STOMPER (1992) or AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998), but overall it's thoughtful and thought-provoking, and Polley's sublte performance goes a long way towards smoothing over certain narrative rought spots.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: An impressionable student comes under the influence of white supremicists in this drama, which features strong performances by Sarah Polley, Tanya Allen and veteran Lynn Redgrave. Middle-class high school senior Catherine Chapman (Polley) isn't uncomfortab… (more)

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