The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico

Poster for The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico

Winter 2006 Edge series

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by


Rated NR · 1h 26m

One of the two Best First Canadian Feature winners at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico takes as its starting point the making of a contemporary tribute album for the notorious Guy (newcomer Matt Murphy), a hard-drinking, hard-living legend who never quite made it. Alternative country and its booze-fuelled macho mythmaking get a well-deserved work-over in Michael Mabbott’s impressive debut film.

Guy starts out as a small-town prairie boy who just wants to play music. Then, an improbable, unexpected windfall leaves him newly wealthy and he soon acquires the requisite shady entourage, who encourage him to indulge in enough intoxicants to fell a water buffalo. As he starts to unravel, his dreams go up in smoke—quite literally. A spectacularly disastrous appearance on a Christian TV show in Nashville seems like the last straw, but our spectator culture often confuses notoriety with fame and, soon enough, Guy’s career is back on the rails.

The portrait of Guy is fleshed out by his sketchy manager; his childhood sweetheart Mary Lou (Natalie Radford), who has issues with bodily processes and alcohol; plus hangers-on including Mr. Stuff (Lyriq Bent), Guy’s drug dealer and confidante, and Guy’s horrifically foul-mouthed mistress (Jane Sowerby). Mabbott also includes hysterically funny testimonials to his hero from such legends as Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm and Merle Haggard. All of them go on record as adoring Guy’s songs (the few they’ve heard) but can’t seem to wrap their heads around his boorish behaviour. Mixing in footage of notorious incidents in country-music history—such as Kristofferson’s infamous acceptance speech at the 1970 Country Music Awards—Mabbott creates a persistently witty portrait of the music industry and its need to cannibalize and glamorize its past. Countless experts and rock critics weigh in on the profound importance of Guy and his career, despite the fact he was never sober enough to actually record an album.

This is a satire—superbly acted, well played and masterfully paced—that’s both hilarious and long overdue. Guy Terrifico might be the most talented and notorious musician Canada never had.