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TIFF, Day Five: Villeneuve's 'Enemy,' Reichardt's 'Night Moves' and the Overstuffed 'August: Osage County'

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood September 13, 2013 at 12:10PM

Sometimes you shouldn't listen to people you're standing next to in line, no matter how charming you find them.
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'Night Moves'
'Night Moves'

"Meek's Cutoff" was elegant, and elegantly ambiguous -- probably my favorite of Reichardt's work. "Night Moves" is about a group of three eco-terrorists (Reichardt objected to the term "terrorist" when Jonze used it the other day -- she preferred "activist" -- but I think when making and blowing up a bomb is involved, "terrorist" is the correct term) who get together to explode a dam, thereby making people think about "killing salmon in order to use their iPods 24 hours a day." 

The burst dam creates collateral damage, causing one of the trio to have second thoughts about their actions, and  another member of the trio to have second thoughts about his safety and security.  Reichardt has learned her Hitchcock lessons pretty well, and her trio of actors -- Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Saarsgard, and Dakota Fanning -- are all interesting and entirely believable, although the last violent twist in the tale seems out of left field. "Night Moves" won the Grand Prize this week at the Deauville American Film Festival over 13 other films, including "All is Lost" (which won the Jury Prize) and "Fruitvale Station."

Back in line outside for "August: Osage County," where I spend most of an hour chatting with a woman who buys films for a couple of Swedish public television stations.  I've seen the Pulitzer-prize-winning Tracey Letts play, in the roadshow version starring Estelle Parsons, which took over 3 1/2 hours (including two intermissions), so I know what I'm in for.  I figure I might as well see it with a full house; if I didn't see it in Toronto, I might never get around to it.  So here I am.

I'm surprised at this Press & Industry screening to see Cameron Bailey, the Artistic Director of TIFF, on stage with a mike.  He reminds us to turn off our phones, and says that's why he's here -- not.  He introduces director John Wells, who says that he was lucky enough to see the play on Broadway, and that they finished the film on Friday.  I sense the presence of Harvey Weinstein, lurking in the shadows by the theatre entrance, with his usual entourage. Talk about your nine-hundred-pound gorilla!  Not only do I not remember this kind of show of force any other year, I have been told by many directors that they are specifically not supposed to be present at the P&I screenings, before or after.

Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"
Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"

"August: Osage County" is part of a genre I call Eugene O'Neill Simon: horrible secrets revealed by constantly fighting unhappy families, with jokes.  Meryl Streep is gunning for yet another Oscar (fine by me), surrounded by many other name actors (most noticeably up against her, Julia Roberts) who deliver varying degrees of performances in varying styles. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper acquit themselves well; Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney, less so. Julianne Nicholson has her moments; and there's the omnipresent Benedict Cumberbatch, being (kinda) Southern. Abigail Breslin doesn't do much. It's an overstuffed lox of a movie. This kind of thing is more impressive onstage, when the very liveness of it makes it move like a fast train.

I once again try on my party girl persona, at the low-key (by the time I get there) but charming Fandor party: there's lots of nice nosh (classy meats and cheeses, fruit, nuts), a swell assortment of pins, and a big announcement:  Fandor, which I think of a Netflix for smart people (i.e., cinephiles) is now available in Canada.  I chat with two attractive young girl journalists, one from Poland, the other of Middle East extraction, but living in Toronto.  The Polish girl can write in English "from the scratch"; the Iranian asks me what I'm looking forward to, and throws a tiny tantrum when I respond with what I'm planning to see tomorrow at 9 a.m., "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her," a duo of 90-minute movies about relationship troubles, told from the two sides of the couple.  "Why," she says, "is everybody talking about this -- it's a first film from an unknown director!"

I feel a trifle sandbagged -- and don't even bother to say "Well, probably a lot of people are intrigued by the cast: Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy."  Instead I say, "Honey, I've been coming to Toronto so long that I used to look forward to the new Rohmer, the new Chabrol, even the new Godard.  And the new Wong Kar Wai or John Woo."  Ou sont les Tsui Harks d'antan?

This article is related to: Toronto, Festivals, Denis Villeneuve, Kelly Reichardt, Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves, August: Osage County


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.