Yesterday was another epic day. After seeing 5 films, I still managed to meet up with a couple friends for drinks…a nap is certainly in store at some point today. One person I met up with is a Dayton native (a former Neon regular and Stivers grad) – Rachel Allen. She now lives in Brooklyn and works for a PR firm in NYC…and she’s in Toronto working with a handful of films at the festival. It was great to see her, and I was delighted to hear of her recent successes.
The first film I saw in the morning was THE F WORD – a romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. This charming film is full of fast, witty dialog (and sadly way too many poop-obsessed jokes), and it doesn’t try to be anything beyond a sweet film targeted at young adults. The story centers on 2 young people who meet at a party. The young girl, delightfully played by Kazan, is an animator who is in a relationship. The young guy, played by Radcliffe (he has 3 films at TIFF this year), is still getting over a broken heart (the opening scene has him finally deleting a year-old voicemail from his ex-girlfriend). The 2, upon meeting, have great chemistry…but they determine that they can only be friends. Thogh predictable and at times a bit too screwball for my taste, this film ultimately works.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB was the 2nd film of the festival that I really loved. Based on a true story, this is a film about a man in the 1980’s who is diagnosed with HIV. Frustrated by the lack of FDA-approved drugs, he sets out to smuggle non-approved treatments into the US. Matthew McConaughey plays the main character, and his performance is mind-blowing. That said, Jarred Leto – who plays a trans character – is also out of this world. With lots of interesting choices (great sound design and an urgency that makes the film not seem like a period piece), this will go down as one of the best films of the year…stay tuned for lots of award season recognition.
Next up was a romantic, modern musical by John Carney (director of ONCE) – CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? Starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, this film is full of great music and good performances. It’s the story of two broken people who begin working together to produce an album of fresh, new music. I’ve heard many people raving about this film. Though I liked it, I didn’t think it was amazing. There are some magical moments, but I didn’t buy into the film entirely. (There’s a scene where Ruffalo imagines orchestrations over Knightley’s simple, guitar-accompanied performance…and I found it terribly cheesy.) There will certainly be an audience for this film, but I don’t think the results are as successful as ONCE.
PHILOMENA, the new Judi Dench film by Stephen Frears, is absolutely wonderful. This is the story of a relationship between a journalist and an aging woman. Philomena gave birth to a boy in a convent when she was 14, and the nuns found a home for him when he was an toddler. After years of feeling guilty for her sins of the flesh (the nuns were successful at shaming her for decades), a journalist takes interest in Philomena’s attempt to locate her son. The story is ultimately a mystery, but it’s so much more. The script is absolutely terrific, and the performances are rich and layered. This film is 100% NEON material! Without harping, the film has very interesting things to say at the Catholic Church, contemporary journalism and the Republican Party.
LE WEEK-END – a new film about a retirement-aged, British couple during a weekend is Paris – is clearly inspired by (and even references) films of the French New Wave. Though there are several great scenes in this film, and the performances of Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are terrific, I had a hard time connecting. Duncan’s hot/cold character changes moods on a dime, and I ultimately found her so frustrating that I found it difficult to care about anybody. Though I was ultimately moved by the film, I didn’t love it overall. Directed by Roger Michell (NOTTING HILL, THE MOTHER, VENUS, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON), I don’t see a lot of commercial success with this title.
I’m about to head into a screening of BELLE…then 3 other films today.
Thanks for reading! More tomorrow!