Oscar bait is only tolerable if our hero/heroine has the chops.
Opening night we were at The Judge to see Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall duke it out.
A conventional story lacking any modernity, this was this year’s August: Osage County, a stagey, overwrought showpiece for actors, sniffing at Oscar’s gate. Fans of courtroom thrillers may yet enjoy the predictable narrative while fans of RDJ will relish seeing the actor flex his dramatic muscle. Duvall isn’t particularly fresh here but then again, few do his act as well. Skip it if you’re looking for something inventive.
Equally transparent is St.Vincent, a manipulative plot saved by the irresistible charm of Bill Murray. Playing himself, opposite one of those smart, adorable kids speaking lines that no kid I know ever speaks, Murray is the badass with a heart of gold, hooking up with a pregnant prostitute, Naomi Watts, and babysitting the kid next door for mom, Melissa McCarthy. Half way through, the film redeems itself-but only enough for me to forgive it for being so caloric. With any other cast, this boat wouldn’t float but Murray is Murray, McCarthy and Watts make anything they’re in shine brighter, and yes, to those who saw it before me and warned me I’d cry, I did. Good for you, Mr. Weinstein.
More Oscar bait was on hand for Mary Kom. Here a true Bollywood queen, Priyanka Chopra, in an overly long biopic of Indian boxing legend Mary Kom, kicks serious butt and never lets up, showing streaks of true brilliance befitting her crown. She is surrounded by a killer cast but let’s be serious here. This is a showcase for a star whose wattage is bigger than any Hollywood star could ever dream, as was evident when she graced the stage in a sweeping ball gown, accepting gifts from fans rushing the stage. This delayed the screening for several minutes while artistic director Cameron Bailey smiled from the side of the stage amidst a camera flash frenzy. I’ve been at TIFF for years and never seen this kind of fan delirium. The crush outside the theatre was the biggest I’ve seen in years and almost resulted in a personal no-show. I couldn’t get past the rubber neckers, screaming for their queen.
So we’re at the C level thus far.
Over in the B level were Miss Julie, The Riot Club, Time out of Mind, The Last Five Years. I’ll have more on these to come but all were good, clear and well worth my time. More on all to come.
Let’s move on to the A’s and A plus. Plus Plus.
Big rave goes to Nightcrawler. This is the dark and twisted terrain of overnight hell, where grisly murders and horrific car crashes are the fodder for entrepreneurial cameramen/sociopaths who then sell the footage to desperate, ratings hungry news directors. Jake Gyllenhall has created a new character classic here and I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish, such is the adrenaline rush. Equally potent, The Drop, was full of sinister threads and the fantastically intense Tom Hardy ( Red Chronicle readers will know what I think of him by now). Can there by a better European female actor than Juliette Binoche? I loved her in Clouds of Sils Maria and yes, Kristen Stewart is an actress after all. The two of them made this film soar for me-more to come.
Also deserving high praise was a Cannes film fest favourite, Force Majeur, easily the best crafted film I’ve seen so far this festival. Every married person will recognize themselves in this film about a family torn apart after an avalanche hits their ski resort.
No sleep and three screenings today. See you in the line. More mid week.