Day 2 of John Foote's Toronto Film Festival Diary!
Here you go:
Oscar buzz swept through TIFF today. Several writers have already gone on the record as stating that “The King’s Speech” will win the Academy Award as Best Picture, and after seeing this mesmerizing work from Emmy Award winner (“John Adams”) director Tom Hooper, I am inclined to agree with them that the film will dominate the race with multiple nominations. Further I suspect Colin Firth will be this years Best Actor winner for his superb performance as King George VI, who suffered a speech impediment for much of his early, finally seeking help from Lionel Logue shortly before he became King. Logue, portrayed by the great Geoffrey Rush, understood that with impediments there are usually emotional issues at the core of the issue, but finds the monarch reluctant to let him into his personal life. Only when a bond is forged, trust develops and the King finds that this subject is very much his friend is the monarch at ease. Hooper creates a marvelous film brimming with energy and urgency, plunging his audience into the years leading up to Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany and Hitler. It is not a perfect film, though. I struggled throughout with Timothy Spall as WInston Churchill, especially after the two superb performances by Albert Finney and Bredan Gleason on HBO in separate films about Churchill. Perhaps Spall is simply too identifiable an actor for the role…I know I could not get by it, though that is a minor quibble.
On the city streets, in the line ups around the festival and in the press office, all they are talking about is “The King’s Speech“.
The last time Darren Aronofsky was here was for The Wrestler (2008) which landed Mickey Rourke in the Oscar race for Best Actor, along with changing the course of his career, and I suspect the star of his new film, “Black Swan“, will end up a Best Actress nominee. Natalie Portman, long considered a gifted actress, finally has a role that seizes upon her substantial talents as an actress, and a director willing to push her to the limit. Portman is excellent in this thriller set in the cut throat world of ballet, where young women leave behind their childhoods in search of a career in the spotlight of the worlds great ballets. The actress has rarely been tested like this by her director, “Closer” (2004), perhaps the only exception, and she rises to the occasion with a mesmerizing performance, matched by the dark Mila Kunis, as a rival ballerina with a dark side. Cross Aronofksy’s “Requeim for a Dream” (2000) with this, and you get the picture; a visual knockout, with superb performances throughout, and one of the films everyone is talking about.
David Schwimmer spent a long time on television as Ross on Friends. While on the show, did anyone ever believe he would become a formidable filmmaker? HIs new film “Trust“, is as dark a film as one can get, and the director handles it beautifully, creating an intimate family drama in which a family goes through every parents nightmare. Annie (Liana LIberato) is given a new laptop for her fourteenth birthday and at once connects with a fifteen year old boy, who she later learns is twenty, and who it turns out is much older than that. He suggests they meet, and takes her to a hotel where he assults her. Only Annie does not believe it was rape, she believes they are in love. She cannot understand her father’s rage, her mother’s emtional devastation or the involvement of the FBI. As events sprial more and more out of control, Annie is placed in the very adult worl of having to discover realities she is not ready to deal with.
Schwimmer directs his actors with the assuredness of a long time veteran, and never makes a false step as a director. The film is alarming in its intensity and realism, frightening in what it is saying, and terrifying in its realism. Clive Owen is excellent as a father who believes he failed to protect his child, while Catherine Keener is equally good as a mother who needs to nurture and heal her child, but has no idea how. The revelation in the film is Liberato, just astounding as Annie, the child who gets into a world she is simply not prepared to inhabit. A cautionary tale that is also a character study that is also a brilliant thriller, with a moment over the end credits that will chill you to your very soul. The film will be a tough one to market, but deserves an audience for its topical subject matter, and the powerful manner in which the director and his cast deliver their message.
Another actor behind the camera, Ben Affleck proved that he is the real deal with “The Town“, an excellent film with powerhouse performances from the ensemble cast, and I must highlight it again. When a bank robbery goes very wrong and a hostage is taken and then released, the robbers find their worlds being torn apart. One of them, portrayed with ferocious intensity by Jeremy Renner believes he can end it all with violence, while his good friend, portrayed by Affleck, sees a chance to get out of the life of crime and have a real life with love and family. That alarms Renner because he wonders how far his friend will go to be honest and who he will take down along the way. Affleck is brilliant at times behind the camera, and damned good in front of it this time as well, but the movie belongs to Renner, superb as a dangerous criminal threatened with everything he knows coming to an end. I mentioned the film once already, but it’s worth mentioning again…
Chris Cooper turns up in a single scene and all but steals the film. Affleck obviously loves his actors and they revere him equally as a director, doing tremendous work for him. ”The Town” will do boffo business when released, though I doubt it will have an impact come awards season.