By Steve Greene | Criticwire September 10, 2013 at 12:46PM
The TIFF Review Report rounds up some of the festival's notable premieres, along with a sampling of their reviews and tweets from Ontario's capital. Here are some of the highlights from Monday's critical chatter.
Category: Special Presentations
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Synopsis: "Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a glum, disheveled history professor, who seems disinterested even in sex with his beautiful girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent). Watching a movie on the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double, an actor named Anthony Clair, in a bit role, and decides to track him down — an adventure he quite relishes. The identical men meet, and their lives become bizarrely and irrevocably intertwined."
Anthony Kaufman, Screen Daily
"Indeed, it’s rare to find a movie these days that so boldly withholds from its audience and defies their expectations. While some may be frustrated by this obfuscation, others will find it inspired."
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
"Imagine the Paul Thomas Anderson of 'There Will Be Blood' making a Brian De Palma movie, or Claire Denis directing Christopher Nolan’s 'Memento.' While those superlatives do give you a taste of the striking, sensual disposition simmering in the French-Canadian filmmaker’s engrossing and provocative psychological thriller, it actually does a disservice to Villeneuve’s superb craft and darkened vision that truly has coalesced into something extraordinary this year."
John Semley, NOW Magazine
"The lurid pleasures of Villenueve's identity-crisis mind-fuck...are entirely trifling. But they're put across with such giddy, nasty aplomb that it's impossible not to savour them. And Gyllenhaal is terrific. Twice."
"August: Osage County"
Director: John Wells
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham
Synopsis: "Beverly Weston (played by Sam Shepard, another great American playwright, whose influence upon Letts is unmistakable) is an Oklahoma poet battling alcoholism, while his wife Violet (Meryl Streep) suffers from cancer and a new-found drug dependency. Not long after hiring a live-in caregiver for Violet, Beverly vanishes, prompting the family to unite in a search that ends with a morbid discovery. Mother and daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis) are left to deal with the aftermath, and each other — the four women have never exactly seen eye-to-eye."
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"The film’s not a disaster, or a total dullard, in the way of too many recent filmed plays ('Proof,' for one). But 'August: Osage County' comes to life, to cinematic and dramatic life, only in fits and starts. And some of the questionable casting choices extend straight to the choice of director."
Drew McWeeny, Hitfix
"While Wells gives the actors enough room to do some very strong work in the film, he's not really doing anything to support or elevate the material. It's like he thinks his main job is to just get out of the way, and as a result, the entire film feels to me like a pulled punch."
Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects
"Crisp, cracking, and increasingly more bruising with each passing minute, August: Osage County is an actor’s movie about a distressing series of events that still manages to be accessible and amusing."
Matt Goldberg, Collider
"'August: Osage County' is a big movie filled with big emotions from big characters played with big performances. Subtlety is not the film’s strong suit, but the performances make the characters come alive in such a way that you feel some sympathy for each of the Weston family members."
James Rocchi, MSN
"Just walked out of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, or, UNENDURABLE FESTIVAL OF ACCENTED SHOUTIN'. A load of hollerin' and fury, signifying nothing. And by 'Nothing,' I mean 'Potential Oscar Nominations for Overacting.'"
Category: Special Presentations
Director: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Ryan
Synopsis: "Atom Egoyan dramatizes the fallout from the notorious 1993 West Memphis murders, focusing on the grieving mother (Reese Witherspoon) of one of the murdered boys as she grows increasingly troubled by the lynch-mob fever that grips the town."
Scott Foundas, Variety
"Perhaps because he was concerned about sensationalizing the material, Egoyan overcompensates by keeping the drama on a too-low boil throughout, a mood further enhanced by Mychael Danna’s persistent, trance-like score."
Ben Kenigsberg, The AV Club
"Considering how much actual footage the movie had to work from, the most shocking thing about Devil’s Knot is how cruddy it looks. Grungy, cluttered homes have been replaced with posh suburban sets. The TV-movie aesthetics extend to the casting, with glamorous actors playing parts they can’t hope to imbue with the vividness and intensity we’ve seen in the non-fiction films."
Jason Gorber, Twitch
"There's one standout element of the film, and that's Kevin Durand...This large character actor has slowly become a kind of talisman in films in which he appears, a standout character actor that seems to rise above the parts that he's given."
Leora Heilbronn, Ioncinema
"Screenwriters Paul Harris Boardman (also acting as one of the producers of the film) and Scott Derrickson give each character a laughable one-dimensional persona and the ensemble often seem lifeless as a result. Firth spends the entirety of the film with hollowed eyes dejectedly posing in his dark designer suits, as if auditioning for 'A Single Man 2.'"