Hello Again. Thanks for coming back!
Half way through today marked the half way point of the festival. And by the end of the day, I had seen 20 films in all…but there’s lots more to go.
My first film of the day was the thriller COLONIA, directed by Florian Gallenberger. Starring Daniel Bruhl and Emma Watson, this film started out like a conventional political thriller about civil unrest in Chile in 1973. But then it became an over-the-top cult escape thriller. This is the story of Colonia Dignidad – a hideous compound in Chile that housed a religious cult and also served as a military torture prison. Though entirely engaging, I found some of the characters to be of the Disney villain sort – thus making it seem like it couldn’t be based in reality. That said, the story is based on fact, and seeing the actual photos at the end was a nice pay-off. There were moments that seemed a little too much HUNGER GAMES driven – so I’m not sure who the intended audience is…serious subject but a little too young adult driven to rise to the top for me.
Next up was FREEHELD, directed by Peter Sollett and starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. This was a film I was looking forward to seeing, and I was a little disappointed at first. Though the performances are certainly quite good, the film seemed a bit flat at first. This film is based on the short documentary of the same name. We played it at the Dayton LGBT Film Fest several years ago, and it went on to win the Academy Award. It’s the story of Laurel Hester and her attempt to get her police pension left to her domestic partner in New Jersey. Though perhaps a little “one-note” in this role, it takes Steve Carell to inject some energy into the film. The original documentary covered the material that picks up in the second half of the film, and that’s where I became most engaged. This story was groundbreaking in its role to bring marriage equality to New Jersey…and now that marriage equality is nationwide, it serves as an important reminder of why LGBT people have been fighting so hard.
Next up was THE FAMILY FANG, directed by Jason Bateman. This film is based on a beloved novel, adapted for the screen by David Lindsay-Abbaire (playwright of RABBIT HOLE). Starring Bateman, Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken, this is the story of a family who are reunited after an unlikely accident. The parents are long-time, well-known performance artists who stage very public pieces that often come off as practical jokes. Though certainly a very touching film, it is also terribly funny. Somewhere between FLIRTING WITH DISASTER and SAVAGES and even a little ROYAL TENENBAUMS (though more for its elements of family dynamics), this film became my biggest surprise for the festival. I was intrigued enough to go…but was so delighted that I had. It’s a wonderful film. Bateman and Walken were there for a Q&A, and it was delightful. It was clear that Bateman loved having Walken in the role, and he said “Everything Chris did was fantastic. It was like killin’ babies in the editing room.” This film has yet to be picked up for distribution…but I bet it will be soon.
I had about half an hour to spare this evening, so I poked into JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE, directed by Amy Berg – it was not my intention to stay for the entire film (and I didn’t). I was quick to learn that this documentary about Janis Joplin was made for PBS (I believe it will play on American Masters series). Though intriguing subject material and certain to find a big fan base, this film wasn’t working so well for me on the big screen. Much of the archival footage was so grainy and distorted via large format projecting…I think it will play much better on televisions.
THE ONES BELOW, directed by David Farr was my last film of the night. “Eagerly awaiting their first child, a young couple in a tiny London suburb become involved in a psychological battle of wills with the tenants in the apartment downstairs…” (taken from the TIFF program). Unfortunately, this film also looked like it would play much better on television – but not due to pixilation or grainy footage. This thriller had some unintended laugh-out-loud moments…and in most other circumstances I would have left after 20 minutes. But for some reason, I felt compelled to stay and so I could shake me head and roll my eyes at some very strange decisions in what had hoped to be a bit more of a nod to Roman Polanski. Though there were a couple gripping moments, I ultimately found this film to be the biggest turkey of my TIFF experience so far.
And now it’s off to bed. Thanks for checking in.