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Toronto International Film Festival, Day Two: from Penn & Teller's 'Tim's Vermeer' and Fiennes' 'Invisible Woman' to Reitman's 'Boogie Nights'

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood September 9, 2013 at 1:18PM

An almost perfect film festival day, including two excellent documentaries, one feature that surprised and delighted me, another that was interesting and novel, and one of Jason Reitman's patented table reads: the cherry on a sundae. Began with "Tim's Vermeer," the documentary about a wealthy, eccentric multi-millionaire, Tim Jensen, who spends lots of money and time trying to duplicate a Vermeer by using a camera obscura and mirror contraption. The movie is directed by Teller and features jovial, whimsical commentary by Penn Jillette.
Jason Sudeikis
Jason Sudeikis

The hell of it was that I had to rush out before the onstage conversation with Workman in order to beat it over to the Ryerson Theatre to get into the longest line I've ever stood in for Jason Reitman's second annual table read, with a surprise cast of actors, to do a live reading of "Boogie Nights." Reitman started the table reads several years ago with Elvis Mitchell at the Film Independent series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; they sell out as soon as they're announced, and have included an all-black "Reservoir Dogs" with Terrence Howard, Anthony Mackie, and Cuba Gooding Jr.; an all-female "Glengarry Glen Ross," with Robin Wright, Catharine O'Hara, Maria Bello, and Allison Janney, and a "Big Lebowski" with a celebrated turn by Seth Rogen as the Dude.  Living as I now do 350 miles north of Los Angeles, I've never made it to a Reitman table read there, so many thanks to TIFF for giving me a taste.  

The "Boogie Nights" cast included Josh Brolin as Jack (Burt Reynolds), Olivia Wilde as Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Jesse Eisenberg as Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), Jason Sudeikis as Buck (Don Cheadle), and Dakota Fanning as Rollergirl (Heather Graham). A good time was had by all, especially Reitman, who handled the narration duties but also was his cast's best audience, cracking up frequently at certain niceties of expression or performance. It wasn't quite the revelation that last year's "American Beauty" read had been, in which both Bryan Cranston (in the Kevin Spacey part) and Adam Driver (in the Wes Bentley role) had created fresh new takes on their characters. Only Eisenberg, cranky, whiney, boyish, seemed to deviate from the original.  (Well, Sudeikis only went the ebonics route once with Buck. He still managed to get his laughs.)  The scary failed robbery scene lost most of its power, lacking not only Alfred Molina, but the combination of too-loud music and random tossed fireworks.

Back on the subway (it was a four-token day) to take in the Robert Lepage/Pedro Pires "Triptych," which I went to both because I've enjoyed some of Lepage's stage and film work in the past, and I thought I was meeting Fandor's Jonathan Marlow there.  In the event, Jonathan's plane got in too late, so I ceded his seat to a lively Toronto psychiatrist.  "Triptych" turns out to be based on a three-character slice from Lepage's monumental nine-hour theater piece "Lipsynch," and interweaves the stories of a schizophrenic bookseller, her jazz-singer sister, and the neurosurgeon who removes a tumor from the singer's brain. Shot in desaturated colors, with a nice sense of place, in three cities: Montreal, Quebec, and London, it was a movie unlike any I'd seen before. Without being completely successful on its own terms, it still made me long to see the nine-hour "Lipsynch."  But then, I like things that are too long.

This article is related to: Toronto, Festivals, Jason Reitman, Jason Reitman, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Tim's Vermeer

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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.