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February 7, 2018

Director Jason James hits the next level of stuff with Entanglement


Adrian Mack/ The Georgia Straight

Great news, everybody: Jason James is barfing in his mouth a little.

“I’ve just never had a movie that’s getting this kind of traction,” he says, calling the Georgia Straight from his Mount Pleasant home.

The Vancouver-bred director explains that he was just eyeballing, with a mix of excitement and vertigo, the stateside PR breakdown for his new film, Entanglement, opening Friday (February 9). There’s no taking refuge in the “safe Canadian place” when Entertainment Tonight, Vice, and the AV Club are beating down the door.

 “It’s the next level of stuff,” he says, a tad giddily. “You can’t hide in your Telefilm-funded shelter anymore.”

The veteran filmmaker kissed goodbye to all of that, of course, when he signed Thomas Middleditch to star alongside Jess Weixler (The Good Wife) and Vancouver’s Diana Bang (The Interview) in his latest feature.

Middleditch, the Nelson, B.C.–born Silicon Valley star, delivers a predictably charming performance as lovelorn 30-something Ben Layten, first seen trying to commit suicide in his bath. What follows is a deceptively warm, sort of rom-com that deals with Ben’s mental-health issues and his disastrous personal life—not to mention the further complications that arise when he starts to date a woman who may or may not be his long-lost adopted sister.

Middleditch evidently was relentless in working over the script and making the best Entanglement that he could. Plus, it transpired, he’s a gold-certified diver, relieving the production of one potential problem with a couple of extended underwater set pieces.

“I’d be watching the monitor wondering if he was gonna pass out,” James recalls, with a laugh. “He’s the real Aquaman. It was a delightful surprise!”

Appropriately enough, one might assign this and a few other things to a kind of synchronicity storm that seized the production.

“At 35, my mother told me who my real father was,” the filmmaker says, further explaining that dad turned out to be the mayor of a small B.C city being considered as a location for the film James was producing at the time, 2014’s Mountain Men. It was around then that Jason Filiatrault’s script for Entanglement landed on his desk, with its playful riff on the quantum nature of coincidence, relationships, and family. “It was a little bit of a punch in the gut,” he says.

Not long after that, James was calling “Action!” on a feature that he describes as “the easiest to put together of any I’ve made”. The results certainly have a buoyancy and lightness of touch that might have bled into the finished product from behind the camera. Not to mention a killer soundtrack composed of super-obscure R&B and country sides from the ’50s and ’60s, drummed up by music supervisor David Hayman when James decided the film’s original indie-rock score wasn’t cutting it.

“I placed them in the movie and it felt like we were coming from a place of character, like we weren’t trying to force a tone on the film,” he says. “There’s a lot of loneliness and longing and heartbreak in those songs.”

There’s no soundtrack album on the horizon, or even a Spotify playlist, but here’s the deal, courtesy of the man himself: go to this no-longer-secret link and behold the work of, among others, Clarence Nelson, the Sham-Ettes, and the Hollywood Saxons.

It’s one of the better antidotes to barfing in your own mouth.

Entanglement opens on Friday (February 9) at the Park Theatre in Vancouver.