Toronto International FIlm Festival ’13 Diary: Day 2

September 10, 2013
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Hateship Loveship

Why You Might Care: Based on an old Alice Munro short story, Hateship Loveship stars Kristen Wiig in a role that allows her to display more dramatic range. Wiig plays a naïve caretaker in Iowa, hired to look after a dysfunctional family played by Nick Nolte, Guy Pierce, and Hailee Steinfeld.

Why You Should Care: Bridesmaids showed that not only was Wiig capable of carrying her own movies, but that she could also do more than just slapstick comedy. But she’s still been waiting for a role that she could stretch a bit with, and Hateship Loveship comes pretty close. She still gets the chance to be funny but she also shows a lot more, and her silent staring during the film’s first half is often when she’s at her best.

Narratively, the film goes through several different phases, starting as a pseudo-fish out of water story, evolving into a mistaken identity comedy for a spell, and then sort of settling into a story of two screwed up people saving each other from their demons. That description probably makes the film sound like slightly more of a mess than it is, but those transitions aren’t always handled smoothly. The characters, though, are always believable, and the cast handles them extremely well. This isn’t a film that’s likely to stay with you, but as a little story, it’s well told and perfectly enjoyable while it’s on. Even if the ending cleans itself up way too nicely.

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Kritsen Wiig discussing the film with director Liza Johnson

Jason Reitman Live Table Read: Boogie Nights

One of the highlights of last year’s fest was when Jason Reitman conducted one of his now-famous Live Table Reads, recasting American Beauty with AMC icons Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks in the lead roles. What initially looked like a one-off special event last year now appears to be a burgeoning annual tradition at the fest, with Reitman handling Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights screenplay this time around. A few of the casting highlights included Josh Brolin as Jack Horner (originally Burt Reynolds), Olivia Wilde as Amber Waves (originally Julianne Moore), Jason Sudeikis as Buck Swope (originally) Don Cheadle, Dane Cook as Reed Rothchild (originally John C. Reilly), and Dakota Fanning as Rollergirl (originally Heather Graham). And introduced as “The first Jewish Dirk Diggler,” Jesse Eisenberg starred in the lead role that turned Mark Wahlberg into a real actor.

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Overall, the results were fantastic. Considering the movie is almost three hours and several deleted scenes were included in the live read, it was surprising how quickly it all went along, finishing in just over two hours. Eisenberg was funny, but he was miscast. Even as he delivered his lines with a wit that Wahlberg never brought to the original role, he was just too unbelievable in the role. After an acting life spent honing awkwardness, he simply can’t manifest the sexuality that it takes to be a super porn star named Dirk Diggler. But, as a different take on the role to listen to for two hours, he was fun, and the rest of the cast was mostly great. Josh Brolin seemed to be having a blast as Jack Horner, and Dane Cook (who I normally don’t like) stole the show as both Reed and Maurice.

There’s a lot to love about these Live Reads that Reitman has been doing for the last few years. (He’s done about 15 of them, mostly in Los Angeles, with a few in New york and now two in Toronto.) Firstly, the written stage direction in screenplays is often informative and revelatory. For example, in the climactic attempted drug theft scene, the screenplay specifically says Nightranger’s “Sister Christian” is playing, which fascinates me. I’ve always wondered if screenplays often mention exact songs that are playing, and usually the answer is no. What if the movie can’t get the rights to the song? But here, Anderson knew exactly what he wanted when he was writing. It’s also great to hear the dialogue exactly as it was originally written, prior to any changes or adlibbing that happened during shooting.

But most of all, these are unique events. When Reitman was asked why he never films these Live Reads to share them with a larger audience (or even for posterity), he replied, “I’ve been strangely opposed to that. My feeling is that in a world where everything is available to anyone at any time now, you go online and you can really find anything. It’s cool to have something that is only once in a room for the people who were there.” And Reitman’s right, it was damn cool. Or, to quote his tweet shortly after the event, it was “13 inches of awesome.”

The Last Of Robin Hood

The Last of Robin Hood

Why You Might Care: In 1957, when Errol Flynn was 48 years old and already struggling to get jobs in Hollywood, he fell in love with a 15-year old girl named Beverly and got engaged to her before his death two years later at age 50. This film tells that True Hollywood Story with Kevin Kline playing Flynn, Dakota Fanning as his under-age paramour, and Susan Sarandon as the mother who loves the attention and the idea of her daughter marrying Errol Flynn. 

Why You Should Care: The best reason to care about this movie is the performances. Though the role doesn’t allow him to show much range, Kevin Kline embodies Flynn about as well as anyone you could imagine, and Sarandon enjoys the hell out of her scenery chewing. Fanning isn’t given much to do other than faun and look like a bad idea waiting to happen, but that’s probably for the best because her voice has become slightly unbearable as she’s approached adulthood.

As a conceptual story, this is an interesting one, because the real-life figures involved all maintain that Flynn and his young bride-to-(never)-be truly did love one another. And the war in the tabloids following Flynn’s death over whether Beverly’s mother should lose custody ventures into so-good-it-could-only-be-true territory. (It’s also a story that the post-Lohan generation can relate to quite well.) But what’s missing is the angle. What’s the takeaway here? Why was this a story worth telling?

The big problem here is that the directors (Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland) don’t appear to have decided whether they’re making a film about a love story or one about a scandal. These don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s very difficult to do both. Though we see plenty of the relationship between Flynn and Beverly, it’s never exactly clear that they truly enjoyed one another, so the courtship phase of the movie seems to be more about the scandal. But once Flynn dies, and the scandal phase of the story heats up, that’s when we’re inundated with accounts of how in love the pair was. In fairness, the film never feels remotely like a mess; it’s actually made with a great precision and keen eye for detail. It’s only as the credits role that you think, “That’s it?”

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Kevin Kline discussing the film with co-stars Dakota Fanning and the eternally beautiful Susan Sarandon. When someone from the audience asked Sarandon if she gained weight for the role, she replied, “No, I just lost weight for this Q&A.”

Tomorrow: Three music flicks, including a Hendrix biopic starring Andre 3000 (of Outkast), as well as Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s directorial debut.

 

Daniel Joyaux is a film and entertainment critic living in Ann Arbor. You can follow him on Twitter @thirdmanmovies for constant updates throughout the fest, and see more of his writing at thirdmanmovies.blogspot.com

  • dee

    I prefer nice young Jewish actors like Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Andrew Garfield, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Wolk, etc.