September is like Christmas for me. You have my birthday, the release of a new iPhone and the Toronto International Film Festival. I love it!! This September is even more special as one of my best friends is getting married and I’ll be pulling double duty as a groomsman and the MC. For the next 10 days I am in Toronto for TIFF. Here is a secret; I love movies. I really love movies. I go to them all of the time so TIFF is like Disneyland for me.
Theatre companies, distributors and directors alike enjoy debuting their movies at TIFF as its a spring board for award season. ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ’12 Years a Slave’, and ‘Spotlight’ are just a few Academy Award winning Best Picture movies that have gotten a TIFF boost.
As I’m going to be seeing at least 31 titles I wanted to give you all a quick review of what I’ve been seeing.
1. Toni Erdman
This movie comes to us from Germany and deals with the complex relationship between a hardworking, driven women and her prankster father. This movie has already been getting great reviews from other film festivals. I found this movie slow in the beginning but the third act was very impressive. The director really pushes the envelope in this one. European audiences probably wouldn’t bat an eye but there were aspects of this movie that may make it unlikely to be played in a North Amercian cinema.
2. The Wedding Party
This is one of several films being featured from Lagos, Nigeria. This comedy deals with a bride and groom on their special day. The director, Kemi Adetiba, admitted the movie hadn’t been finished and editing was still underway. Taking that into consideration I didn’t love this movie. There was nothing new in this movie that hadn’t been seen a million times before. An unapproving mother, a groom who has to shed his ‘player past’ before saying ‘I do’. There were aspects that were fun but I think the real victory with this movie is showcasing the film talent in Nigeria. Unfortunately I don’t think this movie was the best example of it.
3. Message From the King
Chadwick Boseman continues his tradition of playing strong men whose name start with the letter ‘J’ (Jackie Robinson, James Brown) as he plays Jacob King. A man obsessed with avenging his sisters brutal murder. Teresa Palmer is along for the ride in this movie where Mr. Boseman shows us that he is a definite up and comer. This movie was enjoyable. It had an independent feel to it but the performances were very good.
4. Free Fire
This movie is part of TIFF’s Midnight Madness program. It has an All-Star cast that includes Academy Award winner Brie Larsen, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley. Usually any movie with Mr. Copley is very enjoyable as we saw at last years film festival with the movie ‘Hardcore’. Not so much with this one. It starts off on an entertaining tone as we are treated to a gun deal gone wrong but the movie plays out as a 90 minute gun fight. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn’t.
Another movie that is getting a lot of positive reviews is Elle, the new movie from Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven. The star of this movie, Isabelle Huppert, delivers one of the most visceral performances of the year. In the movie her character is the victim of a brutal assault. She then goes on an odyssey of sorts and breaks the mould on how she deals with situations in her life. I found my self transfixed by her performance.
Last year at the festival, in that exact theatre, I saw ‘Room’ and Brie Larsen went on to win an Oscar. I won’t be surprised if Ms. Huppert did the same thing