TORONTO - Stop us if you've heard this one before: "The Right Kind of Wrong" isn't typical rom-com fare.
"And I need to use the word 'quirky' too, right?" said Sara Canning in an interview. "Because everyone says 'quirky romantic comedy.'"
Canning, 26, plays Colette, the target of the affections of despondent dishwasher/writer Leo (portrayed by "True Blood" star Ryan Kwanten), whose reputation is left in tatters by his ex-wife's hyper-popular blog "Why You Suck."
Leo falls in love with Colette on the very day she's set to marry an athlete humanitarian. What follows is a single-minded, nearly stalkerish, sometimes painful quest to make her love him, turning the lovable male knight trope — and the idea of the weak-willed woman — on its head.
"It's not the traditional way that he takes, but he works his way in there," said Canning. "And I don't think it's just about her falling in love with him, I think it's her realizing a lot about what she's settled on and what she's shelved in her life under some idea of what marriage is."
Kwanten said he relished the chance to play a character who isn't necessarily likable on screen, but who wins over the girl — and the audience.
"Leo is flawlessly flawed in a way.... This was a character I've never seen in film before, and it was a great challenge, sinking my teeth into this guy who's so self-centred, obnoxious, sort of a professional dreamer. And to step into his shoes like that, it almost made me realize that in a weird way, we all kind of dream to be like that, but because of societal conventions, we're predisposed to not being like that," said the 36-year-old actor.
"Growing up, I was always sort of the shy kid. I was always the fool standing in the corner at a dance party wanting to dance but being too caught up in my own little world, so worried about what everyone else is thinking, to get down and have a bit of a boogie. These days, you hit your mid-20s, your late-20s, you think, 'What do I have to lose? Life's getting away from me and I'm not doing the things that I really want to do,' and this guy does everything he wants to do."
It's a thoroughly modern romance, about love in the time of camera phones, of tenderness in the time of Twitter. The opening credits feature an animation that give a real sense of the way the web accelerates viral content and spreads information — or mocking, character-staining misinformation — around the world.
To that end, the film — adapted from the 1987 novel "Sex and Sunsets," released well before the Internet's prime — is very much a product of this mobile-device moment, where Kwanten says we are "losing our ability to listen or to be romantic."
"I know Robert Lantos, our producer, he had this story for quite a long time but was waiting for the perfect moment in time to release it. And then Megan (Martin)'s script came along, and she really captured the modern-day version of romance and trying to make a relationship work. That took a good 10 years," he said. "But now seems like it's a great time to release it."
"Everything is public now, down to Facebook and Twitter — but the things I know about people, (I think) 'I don't need to know this,'" agreed Canning.
"Especially for actors, I think it's important we don't have our faces on phones all day. Before I go to an audition on any given day, I tell myself, 'Go out for a walk, look for a parent hugging their kid, look for people having a really lovely moment on the street,' because I don't feel open to connecting to someone if I'm not witnessing those connections."
There is, too, a decidedly Canadian flavour to the proceedings.
The filming took place amid the picturesque mountain ranges of Canmore, Alta., and nine of the 11 lead cast members were either born in or lived in the country, including Ladner, B.C.'s Will Sasso as Leo's best friend, Kristen Hager of Red Lake, Ont., as his ex-wife, and Toronto-reared comedy legend Catherine O'Hara as Colette's mother.
"I'm proud that this is a largely Canadian film, because we don't get to do a whole lot of comedy in Canada, in terms to film. It's sort of a well-known fact, there's a lot of dramatic stuff in Canada," said Canning, who was born in Gander, N.L., and raised in Alberta. "But when we get to do comedy, I think it's done really well, because I think we have a different sensibility.
"I go back to the days of SCTV, and that's why I think, 'Oh my God, Catherine O'Hara playing my mom, is probably the best compliment I've ever gotten.'"
"I don't want to say it's not American or not British, but all these young actors in this movie are particularly lovely people, and unaffected by show business and all the work they've done," said O'Hara. "It was so fun, and they were all just so close."
"I think Canadians and Australians have a very similar sentimentality and lust for life and sense of humour, so there was that sort of immediate bonding," said the Australian Kwanten.
So between the Canadian content and the difficult hero, maybe — just maybe — this isn't just any old rom-com.
"Yeah, it's hard to sort of break past that sort of cliche pitch that it's not your typical romantic comedy," Kwanten said. "But it only takes three or four minutes of watching to realize quickly that it's not."
"The Right Kind of Wrong" hits theatres on Friday.