Hello NEON Fans!
I started off Day #3 with some big star moments.
My first film of the day was GLORIA BELL directed by Sebastian Lelio. Lelio has remade his film GLORIA (which played at THE NEON 4+ years ago) for an English-speaking audience…this time with Julianne Moore in the lead role. During the Q&A, Moore admitted that she had been approached to play the role, but she said she’d only do it if Lelio was attached. (Lelio is most recently know for directing DISOBEDIENCE as well as the Oscar winning film A FANTASTIC WOMAN.) Folks wondered why he would want to remake his own film, and he told our audience today that musicians shouldn’t be the only artists who get to re-work their art over and over “with a different band.” Here’s the brief TIFF description of the film: “Academy award winner Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) directs Academy Award–winning actor Julianne Moore (Still Alice) in this English-language remake of his 2013 film about a free-spirited, middle-aged divorcee hoping to find love on the dance floor.” I had an interesting response to this film. I was completely invested, I laughed at times, I felt hurt for our lead at times. Though engaged from beginning to end, I wasn’t 100% connecting with the material…until the last 10 minutes. It was the final scene that completely took my emotions by surprise. I already knew how the film would end, but I suddenly felt a connection with Gloria that made me love the entire film. I felt a sisterhood with her, and I had a small breakdown in the theater. This is a film for all the single people who keep putting themselves out there.
Next up was CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? directed by Marielle Heller. Here is the TIFF description of the film: “A jaded, out-of-work biographer (Melissa McCarthy) resorts to selling forged historical letters on the black market, and grapples with the ethical complications that arise, in Marielle Heller’s charming biopic about bestselling writer Lee Israel.” Melissa McCarthy is a complete gem in this film…and it is her best work to date. She’s still able to give us comedy, but it’s so much more human than anything I’ve seen her do before. This touching movie has you rooting for a criminal, and she’s someone you probably wouldn’t like if you just met her on the street. This film is polished and endearing, and I think it will find a good audience. (I’ll attend the Fox Searchlight party for this film as well as OLD MAN AND THE GUN tomorrow night.) In person, Melissa McCarthy is smart, funny and clearly in love with the character she played and created with her co-star Richard E. Grant. The Q&A after the screening was wonderful.
TEEN SPIRIT, directed by first-time feature director Max Minghella (son of Anthony), was my next film. Not being a fan of any of the pop-star-creation shows (like The Voice or American Idol), my expectations weren’t terribly high. But Elle Fanning & Zlatko Buric delivered. Here’s TIFF’s brief synopsis: “A shy teenager dreams of pop stardom and enters an international singing competition as an escape from her small town and difficult family life, in actor Max Minghella’s (The Handmaid’s Tale) feature debut.” I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I became in this film. Though not without a couple eye-rolls and moments where I felt like story arcs shifted too quickly, I was ultimately a fan of this film (though the last 2 minutes left me a little flummoxed).
SPLINTERS, directed by Thom Fitzgerald, was my last film of the day. In a word, it was terrible. Here’s the TIFF synopsis: “Two decades after his inspired feature debut The Hanging Garden won best Canadian Feature at TIFF, Thom Fitzgerald again explores interconnections of sexual identity, family, and small-town Nova Scotia life, in this intimate drama about a young woman reassessing her relationship with her mother following the death of her father.” In most circumstances, I would have simply left the screening after 20 minutes. But when I leave a screening early, I don’t feel like I have the right to write poor criticism. However, because there weren’t other options for screenings this late at night and because I didn’t have any concrete post-screening plans, I stuck it out and watched the entire film (even though 90% of the audience walked out). Though there are a couple good scenes (which come really late) and some great agricultural landscapes, this film is full of some really poor, on-the-nose performances with lots of “indicating” and over-the-top body language. The screenplay was at times quite trite and there were moments when I wish a camera could have been on my face to show my bafflement as to what was happening on screen. Overall, I can’t imagine this film ever getting picked up for American distribution.
I stopped for a quick beer before coming back to my Airbnb apartment, and I ended up running into a couple industry folks that I knew. Upon hanging out with them for a few moments, I was then introduced to someone who I have been e-mailing for years. It was fun to put a face with a name, and we chatted for about an hour before I decided I needed to get back to all of you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my rundown of Day #3.