From Angelina and her brood to Clooney talking twins: Highlights from TIFF 2017
Victoria Ahearn, David Friend, Lauren La Rose and Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 15, 2017 2:57PM EDT
TORONTO -- From Angelina appearing with the kids to Clooney talking twins to Glenn having a gas, this year's Toronto International Film Festival delivered some memorable moments both inside and outside the cinema.
Here are our highlights of the fest, which wraps Sunday:
SOME STANDOUT FILMS:
"Call Me By Your Name": At once a sizzling summer love story and a poetic capsule of sexual repression, this coming-of-age tale unfolds in the Italian countryside and captures all of the joy, pain and confusion of growing into manhood. During a getaway to his parents' villa, 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) finds himself infatuated with an older student (Armie Hammer) who is working for his father. The two form a friendship built on their shared Jewish heritage, but there's a simmering tension between them that director Luca Guadagnino milks until even the audience feels like its suffocating in their attraction. But it's a monologue late in the film that puts their connection into perspective and will leave many viewers emotionally gutted.
"The Disaster Artist": This comedy about the making of eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau's notoriously terrible cult classic "The Room" was a hot ticket, with rush audiences lined up for hours. Director James Franco delivers an uncanny performance as Wiseau, whose swollen ego and lack of self-awareness make for a tyrannical mix on set. Brother Dave Franco also shines as level-headed actor/Wiseau muse Greg Sestero, whose memoir inspired this star-packed tribute. The film is flat-out fun and provokes just as many laughs as "The Room" did -- only in this case, it's intentional.
"Lady Bird": There's no shortage of movies about quirky, rebellious teens but writer-director Greta Gerwig crafts a vibrant, authentic take on the pangs of youth with "Lady Bird." Saoirse Ronan is electric and relatable as a Sacramento teen who insists she be called Lady Bird and is fixated on escaping to New York for college. She's bold and outlandish, but deeply insecure about money and social status, while her deftly drawn friends never feel like cardboard heroes or villains. But the heart of the film is Lady Bird's intense relationship with her stalwart but devoted mother, played by a riveting Laurie Metcalf. Rarely are mother-daughter dynamics seen with such complexity and painful honesty.
"Mudbound:" Heartbreak abounds in this devastating Second World War epic about the intersecting lives of two families -- one white, one black -- sharing farmland in the 1940s Mississippi Delta. An unlikely bond forms between war veterans Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) as they face starkly different realities upon returning to the homestead and a world ravaged by the ills of poverty, racism and violence.
"The Shape of Water": Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth") creates a new fantastical world in this genre mashup featuring some of cinema's highest talents. Sally Hawkins plays a mute janitor who convinces her colleague (Octavia Spencer) to help smuggle a secret classified experiment -- an amphibious sea creature -- out of the government lab where they work. That angers the testy agent (Michael Shannon), who is determined to retrieve the creature. One part monster movie, another part Hollywood love story, del Toro reaches back to the classics for inspiration and convincingly masks some of the Toronto area's nooks and crannies with a touch of 1960s flair.
MOST POLARIZING FILMS:
Some screen veterans faced mixed-to-negative reactions to their projects. Among them: Louis C.K. with his black-and-white comedy "I Love You, Daddy," which created controversy with its look at a 68-year-old film director (John Malkovich) dating a 17-year-old girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). The story also seemed to touch on C.K.'s own controversies surrounding allegations of questionable sexual behaviour. Meanwhile, George Clooney's look at racial tensions with his home-invasion tale "Suburbicon" drew criticism for not portraying the viewpoint of the black family. And Alexander Payne's human-shrinking satire "Downsizing" had some saying it's his best yet (the Guardian called it a "miniature masterpiece") and others declaring it his worst.
SOME STANDOUT PERFORMANCES:
Gary Oldman: The celebrated British actor is unrecognizable in "Darkest Hour," where he is cloaked in prosthetic makeup to portray Winston Churchill in the early days of his term during the Second World War. Still, Oldman's talent consistently shines through as he brings depth, intensity and flashes of humour to his role as the defiant British prime minister. It's a career-defining performance that is generating Oscar buzz.
James Franco: Speaking of uncanny performances, Franco dons long hair and a lazy eyelid in a spot-on portrayal of eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in "The Disaster Artist." The uproarious comedy chronicles the making of Wiseau's "so-bad-it's-good" cult classic "The Room," and split-screen moments showing both films at the end prove Franco is virtually indistinguishable from the real-life man he portrays.
Allison Janney: "I, Tonya" star Margot Robbie gets title billing with her portrayal of Tonya Harding in the mockumentary-style black comedy. But as LaVona Golden, the chain-smoking, acid-tongued mother of the disgraced U.S. figure skater, Janney delivers a scene-stealing knockout performance likely to score high marks with the judges when awards season rolls around.
Timothee Chalamet: This relative newcomer was a breakout star of the fest for his triple-whammy of buzzworthy films. The 22-year-old ran a victory lap with "Call Me By Your Name," the brooding love story between two men which captivated audiences earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, then he grabbed praise as a selfish high schooler in "Lady Bird." Meanwhile, he supported Christian Bale in the brutal western drama "Hostiles." And his streak isn't over. He's also scored a role alongside Selena Gomez in the latest Woody Allen film, which began shooting this week.
Sally Hawkins: The London star went into TIFF with Oscar buzz for playing Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis in "Maudie." But after wowing audiences at the fest as a lonely mute janitor in "The Shape of Water," many are also now predicting a nod for that role. It's against Academy Awards rules for an actor to compete against themselves in the same category, so will quiet indie film "Maudie" be able to survive the hype surrounding del Toro's fantastical love story between a woman and a sea creature?
Other standout women: In a year where "Wonder Woman" dominated the box office, it feels especially appropriate that actresses garnered most of the TIFF awards chatter. Among them is Jessica Chastain for her waitress-turned-poker-pro in Aaron Sorkin's "Molly's Game," and Jennifer Lawrence who was mesmerising in "mother!" Margot Robbie slipping into the skates of Tonya Harding in "I, Tonya" also had viewers talking about accolades, while Francis McDormand's role as an unforgiving mother in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is considered an Oscar lock. And Regina native Tatiana Maslany brought a delicate balance of heart and steely determination to the role of the girlfriend of a Boston Marathon bombing victim in "Stronger."
SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS:
FROM PRIME MINISTER TO PIZZA DELIVERY: Gary Oldman is known for his dramatic chops, but the acclaimed actor proved he can deliver some unexpected comic flair -- and a pizza, if needed. As he was about to have his portrait taken in a hotel dining room, Oldman gamely offering to help carry equipment, toting a giant reflective disc. He pretended the wobbly reflector was a pizza as he mimicked delivering the make-believe pie to amused diners.
CHARISMATIC CLOONEY: The ever-suave actor/filmmaker cranked up the candour while promoting his directorial effort, "Suburbicon." Freshly bronzed from being at the Venice International Film Festival for the film's premiere, he was a consummate pro: making much time for the media and tackling a range of subjects, from the Trump administration, to recently putting his dog down and what it's like to take on diaper duty for his newborn twins with wife Amal. Clooney also charmed star-gazers on the red carpet, including a grandmother who grabbed his chin in a photograph that went viral.
TRES JOLIE: Superstar Angelina Jolie surprised everyone by arriving at the premiere of her Cambodian genocide drama "First They Killed My Father" with all six of her children. It was her most public appearance since filing for divorce from Brad Pitt.
GLENN'S GAS: Glenn Close was discussing "The Wife," a cerebral portrait of a marriage in crisis, when she suddenly let loose with a barely audible burp. It was tiny, but enough to send the acting legend into a giddy giggling fit. "That is funny! As long as I don't fart. That's coming next!" she cheekily warned, erupting in another burst of laughter.
-- Compiled by Victoria Ahearn, David Friend, Lauren La Rose and Cassandra Szklarski