As with every film festival Awards Campaign covers, the goal is to see as many films as possible. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day to provide complete reviews. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some talked about pictures over the first four days of this year’s Toronto Film Festival.
Already primed for the worst films of the year list, David Schwimmer’s follow up to “Run, Fatboy, Run,” centers on a 14-year-old twirl (Liana Liberato) who is seduced and then raped by an online pedophile. While her parents (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener) each deal with this horror in their own way, their daughter continues to defend the man who has quickly become a target for an FBI investigation. The movie is so flawed beyond Schwimmer’s uninspired direction it’s hard to know where to start. The script is at times ludicrous and filled with one cliched scene after another. The cinematography is putrid and Liberato’s over-the-top performance severely undermines her character’s credibility. The biggest question though is why did Owen and Keener agreed to appear in the indie financed film in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine.
Hilary Swank in another true life drama? Don’t stop reading yet. This isn’t “Amelia” thankfully. However, it’s not true awards fodder either. Swank is fine as real life champion Betty Anne Waters and Sam Rockwell is his usually best as her wrongly incarcerated brother, but it might be tough for either of them to break into the best actress or ultra competitive best supporting actor race this year. Director Tony Goldwyn tries to elevate the material as much as possible from the TV movie of the week genre, but there is only so much he can do. On the other hand, watching Minnie Driver as Waters’ lifelong friend was a joy. Someone needs to get her a talk show or more movie roles soon.
Produced by The American Film Company whose mandate is to make films as historically accurate as possible, “Conspirator” tells the true story of Mary Surrat (a great Robin Wright), a woman who was tried by a military tribunal for being an accomplice to the plot to kill president Abraham Lincoln. Directed by Robert Redford, “Conspirator” comes off as an OK HBO movie and is hampered by too on the nose casting choices (Tom Wilkinson as a U.S. Senator) or awkward, out of place ones (Justin Long with a bad mustache as a former Yankee officer). It’s hard to see this picture getting any sort of wide distribution that American Film Co. didn’t finance themselves.
Hands down one of the biggest surprises of the fall season, “Easy A” will soon become a teen comedy classic in the vein of “Mean Girls,” “Clueless” and “Heathers.” The film has a fantastic script that doesn’t talk down to either teenagers or adults who will find many laughs in the Will Gluck film. And, as you may have heard, Emma Stone shines as a girl who embraces a rumor spread about her just a bit too much. It shouldn’t be missed.
“Let Me In”
Matt Reeves has pulled off something remarkable. He’s remade a recent classic by adding an American perspective to the Swedish tale that helps it stand on its own. Both Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz are superb as the misunderstood Owen and the eternal child vampire Abbie. Expect great overall reviews on this one and for Reeves to get a lot more attention from Hollywood’s major studios.
“Little White Lies”
Guillame Canet’s follow up to “Tell No One” is an uneven mix of light comedy and very serious drama centered around a group of Parisians who decide to take their yearly vacation to the French seashore even after one of their dear friends is hurt in a serious motorcycle accident. There is a lot of strong performances (Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel) and moving moments in the film, but the picture is hampered by a 2 1/2 hour running time. Unless a good 15-20 minutes is cut from the picture, it’s hard to see it landing U.S. distribution.
“What’s Wrong With Virginia?”
It turns out there are a lot of things wrong with “Virginia.” “Milk” Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black’s second feature directorial effort after “The Journey of Jared Price” (although he seems to want everyone to forget about that one), this new drama is overstuffed and severely unfocused. It doesn’t help matters that Jennifer Connelly, the “Virginia” in question, seems to be acting in a completely different movie than everyone else — straining to make her character more dramatic than need be. The film’s Mormon subplots are also distracting and unnecessary (and honestly seem out of place in an east coast set flick). It would be surprising if “Virginia” gets a major distributor anytime soon.
Look for more Toronto Film Festival reviews this week in Awards Campaign including Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and Mike Mills’ intriguing “Beginners.”