“Blackberry” is the refreshingly original comedy/drama by Director Matt Johnson about the rise and fall of the software company, Research in Motion, and their invention of the Blackberry. The theme that continually showed up in the film was “good enough is the enemy of humanity” and we see it play out time and again. “Blackberry” was surprisingly easy to follow with dense subject matter, but it managed to never get bogged down by the tech. It was full of solid acting performances, with a great score and soundtrack, and outstanding camera work. The audience laughed a lot and at all the right points. The film screened at the Independent Film Festival as their Spotlight Narrative Film featuring a Q&A and an interview with the Director after the show.
The movie boasted performances by many well-known Canadian actors. Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis brought his usual stellar performance tinged with a quiet intelligence that became fiercer as the story progressed. Glenn Howerton was a powerhouse as the bellicose and hyper competitive Jim Balsillie. We’ve seen Howerton be hot-blooded in his role as Dennis on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but the level of intensity in this project was simultaneously more restrained and leveled up. The Director, Matt Johnson, did double duty with this film by also acting as the pure-in-heart Doug Fregin, whose character kept the audience laughing because he was acted with absolute sincerity. Cary Elwes makes a brief appearance as a PalmPilot exec and the few minutes he was on screen were a delight as he acted his scenes to the hilt.
The music in “Blackberry” hit all the right notes with a couple of well-placed songs from Joy Division and The Strokes. The score was gorgeous. There was one piece that played during a montage that caught my attention because it was lovely, at once brooding and nostalgic, with digital beeps and blips that blended over the instruments. The camera work was excellent with many close-up shots in the beginning of the film that gave way to long distance shots towards the end of the story. The costuming was notable with Howerton being rendered bald to look like his counterpart and Baruchel having a striking silver wig. The sets were believable ranging from offices to tech spaces filled with nostalgic ephemera to airport tarmacs with jets.
“Blackberry” will be available for wide release on May 12th, 2023. Matt Johnson said that it hadn’t been planned for a wide release, but the way the audience responded so positively and Howerton’s negotiations convinced the executives to give it a chance. He also said that they probably have the largest collection of functional Blackberries in the world because they bought so many for the production. I look forward to seeing this movie a second time when it gets released and taking people I like with me to watch.