For the past few weeks I have been holed up in a beautiful (and warm) cottage in the beach town of Innisfil, within a chip and putt of the slowly melting sea.
A windswept oasis. Literally far from the madding crowd of downtown Toronto.
This weekend I discovered a small gem of a Canadian film. Scrolling through the channels in my cottage hideaway, the words Rare Birds came across the screen. Filmed in 2001, it is a relatively unknown Canadian film set in Newfoundland, and stars two of my favourite and quirky actors: Molly Parker and William Hurt.
William Hurt, a little paunchy, his hair thinning, is several years from his role as the charismatic teacher of the deaf (and lover of his fellow deaf employee portrayed by Marlee Matlin) in Children of a Lesser God (1986). Hurt is also light years from the good-looking but dim southern lawyer who attracted the attention of the very sexy and nubile femme fatale Kathleen Turner in the classic, steamy, and heavily erotic Florida noir thriller Body Heat (1981). But this Hurt dude can still act! Even in a relatively low-budget Canadian flick with a pseudo Newfie accent.
Set along the rocky shores of a small Newfoundland town, Hurt is the owner/chef of a failing restaurant, literally in the middle of nowhere, called The Auk. The premise is that Hurt is apparently a brilliant and talented chef who, for some reason, fled to the rocky shores of Newfoundland to own and operate his own high-end bistro. But the place seems to be invisible to customers, and most locals believe the place has been closed for months.
Hurt is separated from his wife (played by Sheila McCarthy), who apparently prefers the high-powered life of Washington to watching her husband spend his days alone and pitifully drinking wine in his empty bistro.
Then, one night at a friend’s house, Hurt meets the alluring and red-headed Molly Parker. She is an architecture student, temporarily staying with her family until her return to the big city of Montreal.
Full disclosure: I love Molly Parker as an actress.
I have loved her ever since she blew my socks off in Kissed (1996) when, as a mortician’s assistant, she literally mounted a freshly embalmed body of a handsome young man and had her way with him. If this guy had been alive, he would have thought he had died and gone to heaven … multiple times.
But I also love Parker because she is fearless and she takes on eccentric and totally unique roles in off-the-wall productions, such as the Jewish female rabbi Ari in Six Feet Under or the “hard as nails” widow in the very wild, lawless, and profanity-filled western Deadwood. Fans can currently find Parker as ex-Majority Whip Sharp, going toe to toe with the evil, venal American President Francis Underwood in House of Cards.
And in this Canadian independent flick, Parker does not disappoint. She dominates the screen with her naturally flowing red hair and her mischievous, devilish, and very wise and quick eyes.
In Parker’s first meeting with Hurt, across the dining room table, she initially feigns interest as Hurt, the food and wine buff, holds forth on a special wine he had brought for the occasion. Reluctantly, Parker takes a glass and expertly sniffs the liquid. Rolls it around her full mouth. She then opines on its taste, and slyly suggests its deep penetrating bouquet, ripe pinot fruit, and earthiness is evocative of a hardwood forest and the losing of one’s cherry. Wow … this girl’s got serious game! (Watch the scene for yourself.) Hurt, whose coq au fin has lain dormant for years in a loveless marriage, begins to pulsate in its rich juices.
As a result of a fake sighting of a rare bird, the small Newfoundland community is suddenly inundated by ravenous birdwatchers. They in turn begin to populate the only decent bistro for miles around. Hurt’s little failing bistro, is now awash in American Express-carrying birders who love his Michelin-starred renderings of local fresh fish. To deal with the influx of customers, Parker decides to lend a hand in the front of the room and we immediately sense that love and romance have also clearly invaded this quaint inlet.
In a beautiful and private moment, Hurt, looking in from the outside, watches Parker in the bistro, moving her hips to a bluesy beat, unaware of her lover’s gaze. Another time, after a long day on her feet, Parker favours her sore foot. Hurt motions Parker to sit in a chair across from him, then gently removes her shoe and messages the balls of her foot. Parker is clearly struck by his gentleness, kindness, and coiled sexiness. You can tell from her eyes that she wants this guy … real bad.
You know, these two just want to rip each other clothes off and devour each other among the frozen cod.
But this is Canada, damn it! No Fifty Shades of the Maple Leaf, malheureusement!
Finally, the night before Parker must return to Montreal, she prepares a candlelight dinner for Hurt. The twosome barely finish a swig of vodka and a mouthful of caviar when Parker mounts Hurt, still seated in his chair. She confesses that she has wanted to jump his bones from day one. Hurt, now recreating his role as the horny lawyer in Body Heat, is ready to take Parker then and there. But once again, Canadian values intercede. Some stranger knocks on the door of the darkened bistro and the highly sexually charged moment passes.
But let me tell you, folks, twenty-nine at the time of filming, Parker is amazingly and wildly hot. It’s her strong and high cheek bones that get me. Her wild eyes. Her totally uninhibited, go-for-broke nature. And the explicit suggestion, that with Parker anything, and I mean anything, goes.
I urge you to catch Molly Parker in Rare Birds. She is not only a rare Canadian actress, she is truly a rare and unique actress in her own right.